HUD announces reform plan

amaxwell@govexec.com

Aiming to transform the Department of Housing and Urban Development from "the poster child for inept government," Secretary Andrew Cuomo on Thursday announced a historic management reform plan that would eliminate 3,000 jobs and consolidate 300 HUD programs to 71.

The management reform plan, called HUD 2020, aims to change HUD's reputation as a department plagued by scandal and mismanagement to "a new HUD, a HUD that works."

"This is a very tough task, this reinvention, this change of self, it requires you to look in the mirror and be honest with what you see and sometimes that's very tough," Cuomo said at a press conference.

Cuomo spearheaded this effort in response to Vice President Al Gore's government revinvention effort, which would "make government work better and cost less." HUD has been criticized by Congress and its Inspector General since 1980 for failing to modernize operations and fight waste, fraud and abuse. The General Services Administration designated HUD as the only "high risk" agency in the federal government.

However, Cuomo is confident that the reforms will "enable HUD to become an empowerment agency."

Key reforms in HUD 2020 include:

  • Creating a new Enforcement Division to fight waste, fraud and abuse by those receiving HUD funds and by HUD itself. The department-wide Enforcement Division will be headed by an FBI agent on detail to HUD.
  • Retraining some HUD employees as "community builders" to serve as HUD's service representatives for the public and retraining other employees as "public trust officers" to monitor recipients of HUD money.
  • Consolidating over 300 HUD programs and activities into 71. Congressional approval must be obtained to proceed with this reform.
  • Consolidating routine paperwork by HUD offices around the country into more efficient "back office" processing centers. All of HUD's 81 field offices will remain open under this reform.
  • Conducting the first comprehensive evaluation involving physical inspections and financial audits of HUD's housing portfolio. Assessments will determine which properties are most troubled. These properties will receive additional HUD oversight, while public housing and assisted housing operating without problems will be given more freedom.
  • Establishing a new financial information management system. The department will replace its 89 outdated computerized financial information management systems with a new integrated system.
  • Reducing the size of HUD's staff from the current 10,500 to 7,500 by the year 2000.
  • Establishing new performance-based evaluation systems. These will allow HUD to implement effective performance measures under the Government Performance and Results Act.
Cuomo said the reform plan would be based upon two missions: empowering people in communities and restoring public trust in HUD by demonstrating competence.

"Our key objectives are outstanding performance, efficiency and accountability to the American people," he said. "We will not allow a single dollar to be wasted."

Reaction to the plan was positive.

"This plan remakes HUD," Vice President Al Gore said in a videotapped speech. "It will be a new era for a new agency."

Franklin Raines, director of the Office of Management and Budget, worked directly with HUD to develop the reform plan. "It's not a plan to talk about a plan, it's about implementation."

David Osborne, co-author of Re-inventing the Government, characterized the plan as "aggressive." "If HUD, and Congress, follow this plan, it could well rpdocue one of the great reinvention success stories of the decade," he said.

Cuomo hopes to see "real changes" after one year under the reform plan.

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