Congress considering withholding HUD funds amid reform criticism

Because of persistent information technology management problems at the Department of Housing and Urban Development, Congress is considering holding back as much as $227 million the agency has requested for new programs in fiscal 2000.

HUD has made significant progress toward reforming its management and its particular programs, including IT programs, but the results of those reforms have yet to be seen and the reforms themselves may be causing more problems at the agency, said Judy England-Joseph, director of housing and community development issues at the General Accounting Office, to the Senate Subcommittee on Housing and Transportation today.

HUD has a history of organizational and management problems that go back more than 20 years, including a lack of an integrated financial system or an oversight process for procurement, England-Joseph said. Those problems are the main reason the department has been designated a high-risk agency by GAO since 1994, she said.

While HUD has made many program improvements in response to GAO concerns, "the bottom line is that proof of the agency's progess will be in the results they achieve," England-Joseph said.HUD Inspector General Susan Gaffney agreed with the GAO testimony and said that audits from her office, as well as independent audits, have concluded that the reforms have led to essential IT programs being sidelined for lack of personnel and resources.

Subcommittee Chairman Rep. Wayne Allard (R-Co.), citing "deep-seated problems at HUD," recommended that the agency not start any new initiatives until the current management problems are solved. The initiatives do not include specific IT programs, but they do rely on some of the troubled IT systems. The programs include the Abandoned Building Initiative, which HUD has asked Congress to appropriate $50 million in fiscal 2000; a regional Empowerment Zone initiative, $50 million; and the Regional Affordable Housing Institute, $25 million.

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