The Housing Authority of New Orleans is “overly dependent” on private contractors, resulting in higher costs for taxpayers and a loss of efficiency, said a U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development report on the local housing agency released Thursday.
“If the consultants were to cease providing services, activities within [HANO] departments would essentially come to a halt,” the report said.
Buried within 74 pages of critical assessment of the long-troubled local agency, the finding was far from the most sensational. Yet it’s a sweeping criticism that touches every department in the agency, and points to a lack of cohesive leadership.
HUD found that the agency is understaffed and that the staff it does have “does not have enough of the appropriate skills.” Within the agency’s Finance Department, for instance, “little in house capacity at the management/supervisory/analytical level” means that decisions are made “without regard for the financial health of the organization as a whole,” the report said. HUD points out in the report that much of the agency’s accounting is being done on a project-by-project basis by developers and “outside consultants with minimal cross training of HANO staff.”
“As obligations and funding sources change regularly, this approach to individual projects is highly susceptible to error and as a result funding gaps can emerge across the Development Program,” the report concluded.
HANO employs 159 people. The report did not specify how many contractors work among the agency’s seven departments. Among its 159 staffers are four managers charged with supervising public housing at privately managed and mixed-financed properties. In total, the four asset managers cost the agency $313,000 annually, yet staff members at the sites told HUD inspectors that they could not recall seeing the managers on site. The report attributes the failure, in part, to a “general lack of performance standards” exacerbated by the organization’s diffuse management.