EXCLUSIVE: Ben Carson Touts Financial Turnaround At HUD, Urges Next Admin To Maintain Course

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Anders Hagstrom White House Correspondent
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The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has seen a marked improvement in the department’s finances since the “severe mismanagement” of President Barack Obama’s administration, according to a new report and an exclusive interview with HUD Secretary Ben Carson.

HUD Chief Financial Officer Irv Dennis released the report Tuesday to the Daily Caller, laying out the progress his office has made since first being appointed in 2017. Carson and Dennis say the Obama administration left the CFO post vacant for years at a time, leaving the department’s finances in “shambles” and its tech outdated when President Donald Trump’s administration took over.

The report highlights the department’s improved systems for tracking where grant money is going and how it is being spent. HUD has now compiled more than 20 years of grant data on the city, state and congressional district levels into a database officials can consult from their phones. (RELATED: EXCLUSIVE: Trump Admin Moves To Allow Single-Sex Homeless Shelters To Admit Based On Biological Sex)

Dennis told the Caller that HUD owed Congress 250 financial statements when he took office in early 2018, and that total has now been reduced to “single digits.”

“Efficiency, that’s the one-word response,” Carson said when asked about the changes to HUD.

The Department of Housing and Urban Development building is seen in Washington, DC, in July 2019. (Alastair Pike/AFP via Getty Images)

The Department of Housing and Urban Development building is seen in Washington, DC, in July 2019. (Alastair Pike/AFP via Getty Images)

The department’s renewed focus on finances began in 2018 when Dennis, along with Carson, established new integrity task force to cut down on wasteful spending. HUD established the task force following widely publicized reports of the department ordering a $31,000 dining set for Carson’s office. While Carson canceled the order and an inspector general (IG) report cleared him of misconduct at the time, the IG also said the incident indicated a “systemic failure” in finance reports.

The 2018 CFO report told the same story, identifying 15 areas in which HUD was weak or deficient in complying with regulations. The 2020 report, which received an unqualified opinion from the IG, said the department has reduced those to just one.

Dennis argued the late financial reports and inefficient systems came largely thanks to Obama leaving the CFO position vacant for eight years, a claim that conflicts with records of Obama’s HUD. News reports show Obama’s CFO Brad Huther died in office in 2015, leaving less than two years of vacancy prior to Trump taking office.

“Huther briefly held the position but he passed away in less than a year. So from 2011 it was essentially vacant,” a HUD official clarified to the Caller. “That was where the 8 years number came from.”

Records show Huther’s predecessor, Douglas Criscitello, left the Obama administration in 2011 and Huther didn’t take office until 2014.

It wasn’t considered an important area,” Carson said of the department’s finances under Obama.

Carson also urged President-elect Joe Biden to maintain the current course once he takes office. While  Trump has yet to concede the election, he has authorized his administration to begin the transition process. The Electoral College will officially vote to certify Biden’s win Dec. 14, at which point Trump has said he will be willing to leave the White House.

“I don’t see why those conversations won’t continue when the Biden administration comes to be, if the Biden administration comes to be,” Carson said. “Hopefully they will recognize the efficiency we’ve achieved, and if they don’t continue to build on that, they’re going to run into problems.”