Thank you, Ken (Donohue). Good morning, ladies and gentlemen. Thank you for inviting me to join you today.
Dennis (Raschka), thanks for your opening remarks. They appropriately captured the spirit and purpose of this awards ceremony.
I also wanted to thank Lisa Richardson for that stirring version of the National Anthem. I recently shared the stage with Placido Domingo...he did the singing and I did the talking!
Lisa, that was a wonderful rendition. I am certain Maestro Domingo would have been impressed with your singing...and a lot more impressed than if I had tried it.
Growing up, there was always music in my house. Many of you had the same experience, I'm sure. My father loves opera, and he always loves the great singers, like Enrique Caruso or Renee Fleming or Jose Carreras. He also loves the chorus, the singers who stay in the background and do much of the work. He often tells me to remember that everyone is important in an opera, just as everyone is important in any successful activity.
I agree, and am mindful of that advice this morning. Today we recognize colleagues who have made a tremendous difference in our work. But we also convey our respect and appreciation to all of those who do so much to make HUD more efficient and effective. That is why, every year, we honor excellence and achievement in the Office of Inspector General (OIG). The Office of Inspector General is central to our work at HUD.
Nowhere is this more evident than in the fact that HUD has been removed from the GAO high risk list. I am really proud of that achievement. I know you are proud, too. It wouldn't have happened without you. We should be pleased...and relieved. Several years ago, the Washington Post called HUD the "ugly duckling" of government. That was really harsh! They said we were the "face" of the GAO high risk list. At the time, some critics said that we would stay on the list for years to come, for decades, as if we were anchored to the list.
Well, those critics were wrong! Thank goodness they were wrong! In 2007, for the first time in 13 years, not one single program at HUD appeared on the risk list. In addition, we have received eight consecutive unqualified ("clean") audits on HUD's annual financial statements.
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.
Excellence creates an environment for more excellence. In fact, the department has just received the prestigious 2008 Excellence.Gov Award from the American Council for Technology (ACT) for the Department's innovative Enterprise Income Verification System (EIV). This system is designed to reduce improper rental assistance payments and was selected as one of just five top e-government programs from among 20 finalists at 13 government agencies. We were recognized 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 month 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.
Now, through our commitment to better management and adoption of corrective measures, we aren't "ugly" anymore. In fact, our departmental efforts are now being copied by other agencies.
How did it happen? Well, it took planning, desire, vision, and commitment. The Italians have a saying that captures our achievement: Volere è potere. Roughly translated, it means "Where there is a will, there is a way."
And we had the will. We also had the strong leadership of Ken Donohue and others in OIG. Our removal from the list could not, would not, have happened without OIG. And I thank each one of you for your commitment to improved management of our programs. I have said many times that our removal from the high risk list was due to every single employee at HUD. This was an achievement that was a total team effort.
We have some amazing people in OIG, people who perform at the highest standards of public service. I have to mention Bryan Saddler, the Counsel to the Inspector General. Bryan is only one of three HUD Senior Executives to a received a 2007 Meritorious Service Award.
I am also pleased that we will recognize George Dobrovic of the Office of Investigation in Chicago. George is well-known throughout OIG for his sterling work ethic and inspiring leadership. Deservedly, he will receive the Charles G. Haynes Memorial Award.
Others will be justifiably recognized today. I congratulate each and everyone one of you for your inspiring work.
I know we benefit from it. So do people in places like Brooklyn, where you uncovered fraudulent banking practices that ripped off the American taxpayer and led to people losing their homes. Or in Northern Illinois, where you discovered embezzlement practices that stole from public housing residents. Or in Florida, where a former director of a housing authority was arrested for using public funds for personal use. Or in Dallas, where McKinney funding was used improperly.
Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for all your good work. Your efforts help each program meets its statutory and regulatory mandates. Because of you, this department delivers needed services to the American people every day. Thanks for your professionalism, commitment, and diligence. The hard working public servants in OIG make our department nobler, better, more efficient, and more compassionate.