Watchdog: Follow the Money

Lowell Housing Authority mismanages government funds, may owe more than $10m

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Massachusetts,Kelly Cohen,Inspectors General,Waste and Fraud,Follow the Money

Mismanagement may cost the Lowell Housing Authority of Lowell, Mass., more than $10 million, an audit by the inspector general of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development found.

The authority, which provides housing for low-income families as well as elderly and disabled people, has received almost $20 million in combined capital funds and stimulus money since 2008. The money went toward 14 renovation projects, but the IG found that the Lowell agency failed to adhere to HUD regulations with the money.

Among the issues Lowell officials had were failing to prepare cost estimates and not keeping track of construction.

Only one of the 14 Lowell projects had a cost estimate analysis performed --- and even it was incomplete, the IG found. The analysis was to consist of the "estimated cost, number of workers to be hired, estimated timeframe for completion of work, and total scope of work to be performed or the quantity of materials needed for force account activities," according to the audit.

"Officials failed to establish adequate management controls for the force account program --- or the use of in-house employees for contraction projects --- to ensure that funds were used in an economical and efficient manner," the IG's office reported.

"Any costs determined to be unreasonable or ineligible should be reimbursed from non-Federal funds to HUD or the U.S. Treasury," the audit states.

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