|HUD No. 00-269|
|Further Information:||For Release|
|In the Washington, DC area: 202/708-0685||Tuesday|
|Or contact your local HUD office||September 26, 2000|
CONGRESS HEARS REPORTS ON PROGRESS OF HUD REFORMS
WASHINGTON – A high-ranking official from the General Accounting Office today told a Senate subcommittee that the management reform efforts initiated by U.S. Housing and Urban Development Secretary Andrew Cuomo contain several of the elements needed to sustain the transformation of HUD from a "high-risk" federal agency into a "high-performing" organization.
In his testimony, Stanley Czerwinski, associate director for housing and community development issues at GAO, said that HUD has used its 2020 Management Reform Plan as a blueprint for developing and implementing a number of major reforms.
Czerwinski testified that the Department has "continued to make progress" in addressing its management challenges and pointed to specific achievements such as the development and deployment of several major financial systems and the establishment of the Real Estate Assessment Center which has completed "the first-ever physical inspection of nearly all of its assisted multifamily housing properties and public housing properties and found most of these properties to be in satisfactory condition."
GAO, the investigative arm of Congress, studies how the federal government spends taxpayer dollars and advises Congress and the heads of executive agencies such as HUD about ways to make government more effective and responsive.
Mayor Don Plusquellic from Akron, OH, offered his perspective as a customer and partner of HUD on the improvements he has seen at the agency. Plusquellic lauded both Cuomo and HUD for marked improvements in how the agency conducts business, and what that transformation has meant to Akron. "There is a sense across the board, on the part of both Democratic and Republican mayors, that there has been dramatic improvement at HUD."
Plusquellic described how HUD officials used to carry around a "six-inch thick book of regulations" to find reasons why they could not do something, but now the same officials look for ways to work together.
"I can say that HUD is now in the best shape I have seen since I first worked with it, more than 20 years ago. HUD has provided us with the means and expertise to undertake a number of creative programs that have resulted in benefits for our city and our neediest citizens. It has become increasingly responsive and efficient under the stewardship of Secretary Cuomo. My fellow mayors agree with me; we, the people who work most closely with the Department, are supportive customers of its services," concluded Plusquellic.
"We have definitely turned this boat around," said HUD Deputy Secretary Saul Ramirez, who also testified at today’s hearing. "GAO and our partners – officials from U.S. communities big and small and residents that live in public housing – recognize the tremendous progress we have made."
Ramirez said that since assuming the reins as HUD Secretary in January 1997, Cuomo has "planned, developed and implemented viable and realistic solutions to a myriad of problems."
Ramirez testified that there are six major elements to HUD’s 2020 Management Reform Plan:
- reorganize by function, consolidating and prioritizing where needed;
- replace the agency’s outdated financial management system with an efficient, state-of-the-art system;
- create an enforcement authority that will restore the public’s trust in public housing;
- re-invigorate HUD’s workforce;
- establish new performance-based systems for HUD programs, operations and employees; and
- replace the agency’s top-down bureaucracy with a more customer-friendly structure.
Ramirez singled out HUD’s Departmental Enforcement Center as an example of the agency’s reform successes.
The DEC, he said, has been instrumental in improving HUD properties and recovering millions of taxpayer dollars from unscrupulous public housing administrators and tenants. The Center is so successful that other federal agencies such as the U.S. Department of Agriculture are using it as a model when establishing their own monitoring and enforcement divisions.