Office of Administration 2008 Award Ceremony
PREPARED REMARKS FOR
ROY A. BERNARDI, ACTING SECRETARY OF HOUSING AND URBAN DEVELOPMENT
TUESDAY, APRIL 22, 2008
Thank you, Dawn (Luepke), and thank you Keith (Nelson). Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. Welcome to this ceremony. And, for those watching this ceremony around the country, thank you for tuning in.
I am very pleased to be with you. Today we honor excellence in service. Together, we examine the work we perform and recognize our colleagues who have achieved so much.
You know, government is as old as history, and people have gathered to talk about government service for thousands of years. They have recognized excellence in service because it was a powerful and necessary commitment for the well-being of the community. Government service has traditionally been entrusted to those worthy of such trust, those who could be counted on day after day.
One of the ancient Greeks, Aristotle, said that government service must bring out the best in those who serve and those who are served. For him, nothing was more important than governmental service. This was the place where we could make the greatest contribution with our lives. In such service we could make our communities and our country nobler and better. In fact, he said that we should always strive to attract the very best people to government…the people with the most talent, biggest hearts and good character. And I believe that has happened with our workforce at HUD.
Here we see people who perform tirelessly everyday. We work alongside people who understand the vital importance of their work and strive to do the best job possible. We are here to serve. The homeless wandering the streets have a friend with this department. Someone looking for affordable housing relies on our efforts. A family that wants to keep their home during this housing crisis knows that we have stretched FHA and other programs in unprecedented ways to help them. Those who want to revitalize our inner cities turn to us. And those who run cities…mayors and administrators…know the value of this department.
This is a department of caring, dedicated, and committed people who do amazing work everyday. And we are a department of people who come from all walks of life to try to make a positive difference for those we serve. I can tell you that I am extremely proud to work with you and to be doing the work of this department.
So I want to first thank Keith Nelson for his leadership and hard work. He has helped to engineer some dramatic improvements in our working environment. For example, here at the Weaver Building, the Child Care Center is so important for working mothers and fathers. We often talk about HUD as a family, which we are. And a family takes good care of its children. Having them safe and secure in this Child Care Center, right here in the building, is a blessing and a relief.
The improvements in the Weaver Building cafeteria bring us in line with other agencies and provide a convenient place for our employees to eat. The new auditorium was necessary for us to conduct our work, which includes a necessary place for public gatherings.
Second, I also want to thank all of our employees for your steady and constant high level of service. In particular, I want to mention our innovations in management, which have taken us off the GAO's "high risk" list and led to vast, giant improvements in meeting OMB's performance standards. This achievement represents a victory over circumstances and history, a level of success that is due to every single employee, and I mean every single one! As many of you know, HUD faced many management challenges at the start of the decade. We were ranked toward the bottom of federal agencies by OMB, in the lowest category in all six of HUD's initial President's Management Agenda initiatives.
Well, as of this year, we are back at the top. We have made an historic, eye-opening turnaround. We came off the GAO "high-risk" list. In addition, we have received eight consecutive unqualified ("clean") audits on HUD's annual financial statements.
In other words, we came from the back of pack in 2002…from the bottom to the top. Because of these management changes, the American people have saved billions of dollars. One estimate is that our management changes have saved over $2 billion.
This was a total team effort throughout the agency. You probably know that our efforts have been scrutinized by other governmental agencies, and we are now viewed as a model effort for the rest of the federal government. So our leadership - your leadership - is now helping to make other agencies better, too.
I am very proud that the quality of our work has been recognized by others. That is a statement of the visibility and credibility of our success.
And the awards continue in other areas, too. This month we won the prestigious 2008 Excellence.Gov Award from the American Council for Technology. We were just one of five e-government programs to win this award. We did it for the creativity and hard work of some our colleagues in developing our EIV system to reduce improper rental assistance payments, leading to a 70 percent decline in improper payments.
And last week we won the Deming Award. This is one of the most coveted awards in government. We earned this award - and I want to stress that word: "earned" - for our compliance and monitoring training program for employees and managers.
You can see we've got something good going here. Each one of you has stepped forward. And we recognize some of our colleagues today who have stepped forward repeatedly, with conviction.
For example, today we will recognize Mattie Barnett. She is watching this ceremony in Chicago. Mattie, you've been working for the federal government for fifty years. That's more than 12,000 days on the job. Mattie, in the late 1950s, when you started working, Washington DC was still a sleepy southern town. Frank Sinatra and Ella Fitzgerald were the king and queen of the record charts. Dwight Eisenhower was President and Ronald Reagan was still a Democrat. And rotary dial telephones were all we had…and even then they were still unavailable in some parts of the country. You've lived and worked through a half century of technological marvels and miracles: the advent of computers, space travel, cell phones, the Internet, and advances in biomedicine. Incredible!!! Technology may have transformed our world, but you have offered the same smiling, caring, human touch that makes government work. Thank you for your fifty years of outstanding service.
Today we will also recognize people who have been with the federal government for fewer years, some only 40 or 35 years!!!! We will also recognize some group awards and honor outstanding leadership. Today we single out some of those who work at HUD. We are proud of them. But we are proud of each one of you and honored to serve with you.
This is a department on a mission. We know that millions of Americans count on us, especially when times get tough. But people in need can rely on us, and you can see why. HUD employees are ready to serve.
Thank you again for all of your hard work. Thank you for all you do for the American people.