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We audited the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) Columbia, SC Office of Public Housing as part of a nationwide audit of HUD’s oversight of environmental reviews.  We selected the Columbia Office based on our risk assessment.  Our audit objectives were to determine whether the Columbia Office ensured that it performed the required reviews and did not release funds until all requirements were met and required documents were submitted.

The Columbia Office did not follow environmental requirements at 24 CFR (Code of Federal Regulations) Part 50 when it determined compliance with National Environmental Protection Act of 1969-related laws and authorities for the 41 public housing agencies in its jurisdiction.  Specifically, it did not properly evaluate environmental conditions or maintain required documentation.  This condition occurred because the Columbia Office did not have standard operating procedures and its management and staff were not adequately trained to ensure environmental compliance.  As a result, the Columbia Office may have increased the risk to the health and safety of public housing agency residents and the general public and may have failed to prevent or eliminate damage to the environment.  Further, the Columbia Office approved 41 housing agencies to spend more than $76.4 million, including more than $35.8 million in American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funds, on projects that did not have a proper environmental review and were not adequately supported.

Since the conditions and causes in this report are systemic, we will make recommendations for corrective actions to HUD headquarters in an upcoming nationwide audit report.  Therefore, this report does not contain recommendations.