Audit shows problems at housing agency Bidding procedure among faults cited ANNAPOLIS/SOUTH COUNTY--Davidsonville * Edgewater * Shady Side * Deale

March 09, 1993|By JoAnna Daemmrich | JoAnna Daemmrich,Staff Writer

Federal housing officials have uncovered lingering administrative problems at the Annapolis Housing Authority despite efforts to improve the 10 communities in which the city's poorest residents live.

In a recently completed in-depth audit, the housing authority was faulted for its confusing bidding procedures, having too many administrators and poor maintenance of some units.

The Inspector General's Office of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development gave the agency overall positive marks, but pinpointed a number of problems that have haunted it for several years, according to sources familiar with the preliminary findings. A final report is expected within 60 days.

The audit, carried out by HUD's regional branch in Philadelphia, reviewed four years of financial and maintenance records.

Harold S. Greene, the executive director who was hired in 1989 to reform the troubled housing authority, said he could not comment on the draft report, which he called incomplete.

"We were specifically requested by the Inspector General's Office not to comment," he said. "It was marked for discussion purposes only. And several of the findings were changed. That's all I can say."

The draft report underscored some of the same issues raised by the authority's Board of Commissioners, said chairwoman Marita Carroll.

The commissioners met with federal authorities to review the draft report last week.

"There have been some concerns about contracts and bidding," she said yesterday. "Our major concern is trying to make suggestions or recommendations that will result in some progress to correct any problems that exist."

During 1991, the authority received only a few bids from the same contractors until an independent firm was called in to review contract procedures. Abnormally low bids were frequently accepted, only to be increased by dozens of change orders that have cost thousands of dollars. The board has now asked to approve all large change orders.

The audit also called into question some $88,000 in contracts over the past three years because the agency failed to follow federal guidelines in soliciting bids, sources said.

A printing press used in a welfare-to-work training program, elevator repairs and exterminating services were purchased without competitive bidding.

The report also faulted the agency for having 45 administrators, three times as many as recommended by HUD to manage the 1,104 public housing apartments. But many of those so-called administrators are actually staff who run recreation programs, and were simply included in the "administrative" division because they're not maintenance workers, housing officials said yesterday.

While acknowledging that inspectors may have found code violations in the apartments, housing officials pointed out that they're in better shape than much of the nation's public housing. At least 97 percent of the apartments are leased in Annapolis, in contrast to many big American cities, where up to one-third of public housing units are vacant.

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