Monday, June 1, 2009

Long-Awaited Authority Audit to be Released in Days

15 months ago, allegations of "reckless" and "wasteful" spending at the Housing Authority of the City of Pittsburgh (HACP) were brought to the attention of KDKA news by a former employee.

Mayor Ravenstahl at the time called some of the documented spending "questionable at best", expressing concern but pointedly not "jumping to any conclusions". After immediately demanding an internal review of HACP spending, Ravenstahl later upped the ante by asking for a formal audit by the City Controller.

That audit was completed at least two months ago, says Controller Michael Lamb -- but it has yet to be released to the public.

"I'm not sure why that's being held up," said Lamb. "You'd have to ask the Reverend about that."

Rev. Ricky Burgess, a Pittsburgh City Councilman, chairs the city Housing Authority. He was appointed by Mayor Ravenstahl to replace ousted URA director Patrick Ford in that role months after the allegations of HACP misspending surfaced and instigated reviews.

"It should be out in one day, two days at the latest," Burgess told the Comet in response to inquiries. "In fact, [the Controller's office] should have that back by now."

All Controller's office audits must ultimately be made public -- but all government bodies which are audited are given the opportunity to "respond" to the findings before they are released.

Annabelle Kinney, an attorney at the Controller's office, says that there is no legal deadline for submitting responses, but the eleven weeks it has so far taken HACP verges on "ridiculous".

"It's important that audits be timely," said Kinney. "The information needs to be relevant."

Burgess referred the work of considering the Housing Authority's response to a special internal audit committee, which resulted in part of the delay.

"I can't answer that," Burgess said regarding concerns over the time lag. "All I can say is, I'm new at this, and I've made sure I've done my due diligence."

The Housing Authority is likely once again to fall under the microscope for its expenditures. An estimated $28 million in federal stimulus money is coming its way, a sum expected to dwarf other city authorities and departments. Approximately $4.54 million of that has already been dispersed by its board on construction-related contracts, including widening entryways and easing accessibility.

Meanwhile, new legislation authored by Councilman Bill Peduto would set up a local stimulus oversight panel, charged with ensuring that all of Pittsburgh's governmental instruments are spending federal public dollars wisely.

"I have no confidence that the Housing Authority is going to spend that money wisely," says Matt Hogue, the former HACP employee who originally brought forward the allegations of wasteful spending -- including reports of $2000 laptop computers, monogrammed umbrellas and windbreakers, and costly live performances for charity events. "I guess you could say I have no confidence in the leaders at 200 Ross St."

"It's long, long overdue," Hogue said of the audit.


  1. Interesting timing. What are the chances that the primary had anything to do with holdup?

  2. I said before, and I will say again, that two grand is only a bit high for a laptop, depending on intended purpose. But I remember that Matt H had copies of a lot of other invoices that were, in my view, clearly improper. I think Bram's reference to Peduto's proposed stimulus oversight panel takes on a whole new meaning when coupled with the amount of money HACP is getting. The results of the audit should be a reason for the State, County and City to overhaul the HACP. Except that ain’t gonna happen.

  3. I'm going to get a good chuckle when this is released. It's already in the bag and everything is a-ok.

  4. This audit took way too long to be released.

  5. I really don't care about all this Hoagie commentary... but he did have one of the greatest quotes I heard on radio in some time. When he was interviewed by Marty on this and talking about the $2,000 laptops his quote was something like "Where do they get these computers? From NASA?!".

    and wasn't one of the other allegedly eggregious things some spending on a band or something that really had been funded by a local foundation.

    But I do wonder what NASA pays for computers. Probably add a zero there somewhere.

  6. I know that one government agency leases their computers for over $350 a month.

  7. Chances Peduto's SOARING failure has any oversight on authorities: 0%. Which is slightly higher than the oversight it will have on stimulus spending from PennDot or the School Board or the County in the City or County Authorities like Alcosan or the Port Authority.

    Signed: not O (although I feel like an Angry Drunk Bureaucrat)

  8. All I can say is, I'm new at this, and I've made sure I've done my due diligence."

    “I’m new at this” is getting really old…………sounds like there is a problem brewing and excuses need to be made in advance…sure the due diligence was done….

  9. You know if you hurry, you can smack octipus at Wholley's...

    Would make more sense than chasing laptops...

    G20 summit coming, and this is what I hear.

    Yinz are sniffing your own farts on elavator...

    ...and liking it!


    Bram has me on short lease...imagine what I really think. Not that you care.

  10. Ed Rendell is not the best person to dictate the financial future of Pittsburgh. Trust me.