Investigative Group

EXCLUSIVE: Watchdog Hides Big HUD Problems While Claiming He’s Transparent

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Ethan Barton Editor in Chief
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Inspector General (IG) David Montoya lauds transparency in government, but taxpayers are never told about some of the problems his office uncovers in the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), The Daily Caller News Foundation Investigative Group has learned.

Montoya touted his transparency efforts in a letter to Sen. Chuck Grassley while responding to questions the Iowa Republican asked about 14 unpublished IG reports revealed by TheDCNF. Montoya told the Senate Committee on the Judiciary chairman that there are circumstances when his office withholds its reports.

“This agency actually takes the additional step of transparency by placing all documents on our public facing [Freedom of Information Act] reading room that receive three or more requests,” Montoya wrote. “We do this for the sake of transparency.” With an annual budget of nearly $49 billion, HUD has 8,375 employees.

Montoya claimed the unpublished IG reports TheDCNF exposed were drafts and were never meant for the public. The documents at issue are Systemic Implication Reports (SIRs), which reveal potentially agency-wide problems the IG discovers.

Montoya listed the most frequent reasons draft SIRs are not published.

A report will be withheld if the “substance of the draft SIR is already being addressed by HUD departmental policy” or if “it is determined that it is not a department-wide implication,” Montoya wrote. Another reason his office will withhold a SIR is if the identified problem “could be addressed and/or corrected by training.”

Lack of training and inadequate budgets are among the most frequently cited excuses federal employees offer when questions are raised about their performance.

Yet none of those reasons means HUD actually corrected the problem the IG found. Additionally, suppressing reports for such reasons means there’s no public record of the problems or their attempted remedies, since, according to Montoya, drafts are not subject to the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).

The IG will also withhold a report if concerns about its accuracy appear during the review process, Montoya wrote.

TheDCNF previously revealed a report suppressed for such a reason. The SIR showed that 1,300 fugitives – who were wanted for crimes such as rape and murder – were living in HUD-funded homes.

The report was withheld because of data inaccuracies, IG spokesman Darryl Madden told TheDCNF, but he repeatedly refused to elaborate. The IG ultimately told Grassley they haven’t been able to match HUD data to a criminal database for four years and don’t know how many fugitives live in HUD-funded homes.

The IG did, however, supply some information about the 1,300 fugitives’ warrants, consequently providing some confirmation of the data.

Montoya did not explain in his letter to Grassley why the remaining SIRs TheDCNF revealed were withheld, nor did he note that his office ignored TheDCNF’s multiple requests for comment, both before and after publication.

A 2011 SIR previously reported by TheDCNF showed a rural Missouri town had not spent $78 million in federal disaster funds it was awarded in 2008. Another unreleased report showed Florida residents living in HUD-funded homes simultaneously claimed earned income tax credits while reporting they earned no income.

The IG did not respond to TheDCNF’s request for comment for this story.

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