According to Port Arthur Housing Authority Executive Director Seledonio “Cele” Quesada, the PAHA Board of Commissioners met in a special session March 7 and voted to take steps to bring closure to a 2012 HUD Office of the Inspector General (OIG) Audit that brought into the spotlight nearly $6 million in questionable payouts. Quesada said as part of the deal, PAHA will be required to move $1.5 million of non-federal funds into an account held at the housing authority to hold federal funding. Nearly a third of the $1.5 million in shifted funds will be earmarked for reconstruction of the dilapidated Carver Terrace housing complex, also as part of PAHA’s deal with HUD.
“We hope this commemorates the end of the audit review and findings process,” Quesada told The Examiner. “We’re going to do what was asked and continue to meet the housing needs of the citizens of Port Arthur.”
HUD Regional Director Dan Rodriguez proposed several requirements be given to the PAHA Board of Commissioners in a Feb. 28 letter to the commissioners, Quesada, and Port Arthur Mayor Bobbie Prince.
“Please see the actions that HUD is proposing you require the Port Arthur Housing Authority undertake to fully respond to the OIG Audit. Please pay particular attention to the repayment of federal programs from non-federal funds,” Rodriguez affirmed. The HUD official then proceeded to detail various amounts of repayment including $55,986 for “unsupported charge card charges,” $173,584 in “improperly allocated costs,” $103,984 in “ineligible contract costs,” $447,168 in “unsupported procurement and contracting costs,” $254,709 for “unsupported procurement and contracting costs,” and recapturing $469,359 “the Authority drew as replacement reserves.”
Failing to put the required funds into a HUD-approved account and execute a construction contract to redevelop Carver Terrance, Rodriguez further advised, “HUD will recapture the $469,359.”
Quesada said PAHA has every intention of following Rodriguez’s demands.
“The PAHA Board of Commissioners took action on March 7, 2013 to accept the terms offered by HUD and OIG in the spirit of cooperation and compromise to bring closure to this matter,” Quesada said in a written statement. “The PAHA completed an internal accounting transfer of approximately $1 million of PAHA non-federal funds to the programs identified in the HUD letter. No funds were required to be repaid to HUD and all funds transferred stayed within PAHA.
“These efforts will allow the Agency to focus its attention on the $39 million Carver Terrace redevelopment efforts at hand. On March 11, 2013 the PAHA Board of Commissioners approved the redevelopment plan for Carver Terrace and Lincoln Square which includes $20.5 million anticipated in CDBG Hurricane Ike disaster funding through the Southeast Texas Regional Planning Commission in Beaumont.”
Jennifer Johnson can be reached at (409) 832-1400, ext. 231, or by e-mail at jennifer [at] theexaminer [dot] com.