Weslaco PHA Paid Excessive Travel Costs
HUD’s Office of Inspector General (OIG) audited the Weslaco Housing Authority in Weslaco, Texas, after noting issues in the PHA’s travel while reviewing its independent public accountant’s audited financial statements. Auditors found that the PHA paid its commissioners and employees for ineligible, unreasonable, unnecessary, and unsupported travel costs. This condition occurred because the PHA lacked controls and oversight, its staff was intimidated and did not question travelers’ costs, and travelers did not understand or disregarded the requirements. As a result, the PHA paid a total of $23,138 in questioned travel costs.
With regard to ineligible travel costs, in violation of federal, state, and local requirements, the PHA paid ineligible travel costs for attendance at a political conference, rental of a condominium and travel to hold a remote board meeting, a family member’s travel, the rental of a beach house owned by a family member, duplicate travel costs, and other miscellaneous costs. Also, in violation of federal and local policy, the PHA paid unreasonable amounts for travelers’ lodging as it allowed its commissioners and an employee to select hotels that exceeded the federal lodging rate and the conference hotel rate. In addition, for 11 of the 25 travel vouchers reviewed, the PHA could not provide supporting documentation for the amounts that it paid its travelers for meals, incidentals, hotels, and other costs as required by federal, state, and local requirements.
The auditors recommended that HUD’s Office of Public Housing require the PHA to support or repay questioned costs totaling $23,138. And OIG recommended that the PHA adopt travel policies and procedures that comply with federal, state, and local requirements. In addition, it recommended that the Departmental Enforcement Center take appropriate administrative sanctions and seek civil money penalties against the commissioners.