The world of federal contracting is murky and complex, with many rules and massive amounts of data. Investigating how it works and how it has gone awry could be a life-long pursuit, so the articles on the preceding pages inevitably leave many questions unanswered. Here are some of the biggest questions Affordable Housing Finance has yet to explore.
How much money is being wasted on Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) contracts due to oversight that the Government Accountability Office said was so bad HUD may be paying for services it has not received and renewing contracts for poorly performing firms?
What has been the trend in HUD contracting in fiscal 2007, which began last Oct. 1? In this section, AHF focused on contracting data from fiscal 2006 and earlier. This is because complete and reliable data for the first quarter or first half of fiscal 2007 was not available at press time.
How is HUD monitoring contractors? Is the agency holding them accountable for good quality work and disciplining them if they do bad work, break contracting rules, or commit fraud? HUD’s public relations material claims a system exists for monitoring small businesses that get contracts under a complex array of preferences, but the Office of Small & Disadvantaged Business Utilization at HUD did not respond to a request to provide details on how it works and data on its evaluations of contract performance.
How can some contractors who enjoy preferences as small businesses keep getting contract after contract for tens of millions of dollars per year, without growing so much they’re no longer officially “small”?
To what extent is HUD’s emphasis on small businesses forcing it to choose poorly qualified contractors, such as property management contractors who are really lawyers or appraisers and plan to “learn on the job”?
To what extent are contractors in “preference categories” making a profit simply by getting contracts and then using subcontractors to do the actual work?
Did some witnesses lie under oath to HUD Inspector General (IG) Kenneth Donohue’s investigators last summer? No less a figure than the assistant secretary for Community Planning and Development accused HUD’s chief of staff of lying in her testimony to the IG. Even more disturbing, testimony from several witnesses flatly contradicted the facts of certain contracting decisions as stated by HUD Secretary Alphonso Jackson.
Why did Donohue insist on hiding the identity of every HUD employee who testified in his investigation, except Jackson?
Why did the Public Integrity Section of the Department of Justice opine on June 15, 2006, that “no apparent criminal violation could be discerned based on the evidence to date” in regard to Jackson’s April 28, 2006, speech? It seems a little premature, since Donohue’s staff began its investigation in May, did not interview Jackson until July 24, and did not complete the investigation until Sept. 8, 2006, nearly three months after the Justice Department rendered its opinion.
Did Karl Rove and his White House political staff ask HUD’s top brass, like they asked those at the General Services Administration, to help Republican members of Congress in their campaigns for re-election in November 2006?
What did HUD do in response to visits in 2003 from convicted former House of Representatives housing subcommittee Chairman Bob Ney, who emphasized to then-HUD Secretary Mel Martinez his concern for Native American Indian Tribal housing, especially housing for the tribes represented by convicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff?