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We audited the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) Boston Office of Public Housing as part of a nationwide audit of HUD’s oversight of environmental reviews.  We selected the Boston Office based on our risk assessment.  Our audit objectives were to determine whether the Boston Office’s oversight of public housing environmental reviews within its jurisdiction ensured that (1) the responsible entities performed the required reviews and (2) HUD did not release funds until all required documents were submitted.

The Boston Office did not provide adequate oversight to three public housing agencies to ensure that the responsible entities properly completed and documented environmental reviews.  Further, the Boston Office did not maintain sufficient internal control records.  These conditions occurred because the Boston Office thought that the Office of Community Planning and Development was responsible for monitoring responsible entities for compliance with requirements and because the Boston Office elected not to follow the Office of Public Housing’s guidance.  As a result, three housing agencies spent more than $85 million, including more than $39 million in Recovery Act grant funds, for projects that either did not have required environmental reviews or the environmental reviews were not adequately supported.   

Our recommendations include requiring three housing agencies to (1) repay HUD, for transmission to the U.S. Treasury, more than $4.8 million and providing support or repaying more than $34 million in 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funds, (2) provide support for or repay HUD more than $45 million in Public Housing Capital Fund grant funds, and (3) take available actions against three housing agencies and their responsible entities.  To correct systemic weaknesses identified in this report, we will make recommendations to HUD headquarters officials in an upcoming nationwide audit report.