Hudson Reporter can’t open its eyes to damning HHA audit findings

Hoboken is “special” or so the rationalization goes when malfeasance or corruption surfaces. It’s a way of excusing certain behavior and actions doing great harm to residents, its institutions and often the taxpayers.

Coverage and frustration with the termination of former HHA Executive Director Carmelo Garcia’s contract is causing the Old Guard much agita. A fascinating perspective on the change posits the termination as a temporary loss, couching the contract’s ending as “for now.”
There’s been a complete lack of interest in the damning audit findings covered on MSV just last month. Hoboken is an odd political environment. Facts are called lies, telling the truth is deemed spreading hate and revealing corruption generates complaint for putting Hoboken in a bad light.
Yes, Hoboken truly is special. There’s more “special” coming our way in the Hoboken Housing Authority. In the interim let’s aid some in the fourth estate with facts they refuse to digest.
Nowhere in the Hudson Reporter does it even mention last weekend the severely problematic audit findings released only last month. 
Here’s a summarized list below from MSV’s original July 14 story:
Among the more than a dozen and a half serious problems delineated in the HHA Audit Report:

  • Five vendors were paid over $26,000 where a bid process is mandatory under law
  • None of the five vendors fulfilled a required sealed bid requirement
  • Two of the five above vendors were paid over $100,000
  • “Questioned costs” totaled over $573,000
  • Payments to numerous vendors was out of compliance with prices authorized by the HHA Board of Commissioners
  • The HHA accounting department was “unable to print a vendors history report” 
  • One vendor overpaid without contract authorization exceeded $753,000
  • The partial period of emergency is no excuse for the excessive unauthorized payments
  • All contracts should be properly reviewed when reaching 70% of approved contract expenditure
  • Fiscal controls relating to HHA procurement are not “as required” by law
  • No emergency procurement reports were filed with the state as required under law
  • The HHA is “not in compliance” with state and federal procurement laws and regulations.
  • Detailed required bills submitted for payment to the HHA examined lacked required vendor certifications in all examples examined.
  • Internal control over aspects of procurement are “ineffective”
  • More than $100,000 in expenditures with the illicit use of a credit or store card
  • Section 8 files contained major problems and are “materially incomplete”
  • Costs deemed problematic connected to Section 8 can’t be fully determined due to the lack of required documentation
  • The HHA is “not in compliance” with the Housing Choice Voucher Program and the Low Rent Public Housing Program regulations

In addition, the audit report findings state payments throughout the year to a host of suspect vendors totaled almost $800,000 and the “state of emergency” due to Hurricane Sandy shows most of the expenditures “occurred outside the scope of the emergency.”

At a recent meeting HHA commissioner and Councilman Dave Mello marveled at a seven-thousand dollar bill with no itemized details at Home Depot and demanded to see how the store credit card was being used. As it turns out, use of any credit or store card is not permitted. It’s unclear how long HHA ED Carmelo Garcia did so.

The report said excuses were made pointing to Hurricane Sandy but this was not deemed acceptable.

Vision 20/20 or Vision Money/Money is officially an  undocumented and
kaput plan. In its place will come action designed to benefit the HHA
residents not the Old Guard’s pockets.

Later MSV will make available another 25 minutes of unedited footage from last week’s Hoboken Housing Authority meeting.

Talking Ed Note: Some of these audit findings will be making more news. On Friday, MSV noted in its editorial questions swirling around the HHA’s application of the Section 8 program had raised eyebrows all the way in HUD’s Washington Office. 

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