An audit by the federal Office of Inspector General, released yesterday, uncovered more than $100,000 in questionable and erroneous payments for the Slidell Housing Authority’s Section 8 program, between 2010 and 2012.
It points out lackluster documentation of payments and no internal controls for the overall management of the office. The report mirrors one released by the State Legislative Auditor’s Office last month.
In addition, the federal audit found that the agency was not doing background checks or sex offender registry checks on applicants. The report also details several conflicts of interest including a city councilman participating in the program as a landlord, as well as family members of both staff members and board members of the Slidell Housing Authority participating as tenants.
“’Was there anything in this report that was surprising to you?' Only the disappointment that the problems are still continuing," said League of Women Voters of St. Tammany Parish President Sandra Slifer.
She says the organization seems to be spinning its wheels since the Housing Authority went through an overhaul in 2010 following allegations of mismanagement. But Board Chairman Dr. Adrian Talbot told Eyewitness News in a statement, “The housing authority has made great strides over the years and we are continuing to identify and resolve residual issues from the previous administration. The financial state of the housing authority is sound. We have made a significant cash contribution to the City of Slidell in the past year and we will continue to support the city going forward. Additionally, the Housing Authority is no longer classified as a troubled authority. Due to the hard work of the executive director and her staff, the Authority has been officially removed from HUD's ‘troubled’ list.”
The agency’s response to the latest O.I.G. report acknowledges all of the issues brought to light and outlines how they’re being addressed. But Slifer says it’s all the more reason for an Inspector General in St. Tammany.
"It's just one more confirmation for the need to have this kind of oversight over all of our other agencies and organizations that get public dollars," she said.
Slidell Mayor Freddy Drennan said he couldn’t comment yet because he had not fully reviewed the report. However, he says if after reading the audit, if the agency deserves praise, he’ll give it, but if more changes need to be made to leadership, he’ll make them.