Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa has a long record of seeking accountability from the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and public housing authorities in fulfilling their responsibilities. Grassley described his oversight and ongoing concerns in a meeting today with Dr. Ben Carson, President-elect Trump’s nominee to serve as HUD secretary. Grassley made the following comment on the meeting.
“The taxpayers spend billions of dollars a year to provide safe, affordable housing for those in need. HUD is good at writing checks but not as interested in making sure the money is spent as intended. Several public housing authorities around the country have used the lack of checks and balances to run up excessive executive salaries, travel expenses and other wasteful spending. Over the last several years, my oversight of HUD has led to key successes, such as publicly disclosing public housing authority salaries and clarifying that housing authorities by law aren’t allowed to circumvent salary caps using federal funds.
“These gains were hard to come by, as HUD under the Obama Administration often dismissed my concerns or referred me to local housing authorities for information, even though the federal government provides up to 90 percent of public housing authority funding. HUD consistently stonewalled congressional oversight on these issues. On another issue, HUD at one point instructed an agency employee not to communicate with Congress. According to an independent, non-partisan GAO opinion, that instruction was contrary to legal restrictions on the use of taxpayer money to interfere with communications between federal employees and Congress.
“I conveyed to Dr. Carson the problems I’ve run into and how I hope for more accountability and transparency for how taxpayer dollars are used to fulfill housing needs under a new administration. I said that the Office of Inspector General appears to be working well, and that such success should continue. I expressed the need for HUD to function well for the families and individuals who depend on public housing programs and for the many people on long waiting lists for public housing, even as money has been squandered in housing authority executive suites. HUD needs to get the biggest bang for the buck. Dr. Carson listened carefully to everything I had to say. I look forward to Dr. Carson’s swift confirmation so he can get to work making much-needed changes at HUD.”