LUMBERTON — The Robeson County Housing Authority doesn’t think it should have to repay the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development more than $1 million in questioned contract expenses if documentation can be provided showing that the contracts were granted following federal procurement regulations.
In a recent letter to HUD’s Greensboro field office, Patrick Pait, the county’s new attorney, told HUD that although eight of nine contracts show no independent cost estimates, the housing authority believes that the work on all the contracts was completed at “fair market prices.” All documents for one contract, totaling $416,585, have been found.
Relief from the repayment of questioned expenses is part of the county’s response to a recent HUD review in which the federal agency raised several concerns about the authority’s procurement process.
“We are deeply concerned about the allegations in the complaint and your procurement assessment,” Pait wrote to Michael A. Williams, director of HUD’s Greensboro field office. “We have begun working to learn more about the findings raised in the June 30, 2014, letter and to formulate a plan of action to ensure these issues are not repeated.”
HUD initiated a review of the housing authority’s files in January after it received a hotline complaint. An on-site visit was conducted in June.
Ron Oxendine, the housing authority’s director, was suspended by the Robeson County Board of Commissioners with pay on July 21. He will remain on suspension until HUD’s review is complete, according to county officials.
Allegations against Oxendine include that he used federal money to pay for work on his home; had two contractors work on his home while they were under contract to the housing authority; and tried to get free landscape work done at his home by a company that was under contract to the housing authority.
HUD listed three findings in its report. It found that the housing authority could not provide sufficient documentation on several contracts; violated procurement policy; and failed to obtain independent cost estimates before going out and getting bids for projects. The housing authority was also told by HUD to change its procurement policy and make sure that cost estimates are performed for all procurements.
In his letter, Pait told HUD that the housing authority has started updating its procurement policy to bring it in line with federal regulations. A 60-day extension is needed to prepare the revised policy for HUD review, Pait said.
According to Pait’s letter, the county housing authority has determined that Oxendine “apparently never obtained preliminary cost bid estimates.” The director presented the low bid as his preliminary cost estimate when reporting to the (housing authority) board, the letter said.
Pait also stated in his letter to HUD that the county has determined that its procurement policy “needs to clearly state that any contractor working for the Robeson County Housing Authority cannot do private work for management or anyone involved with the decision making process of the Robeson County Housing Authority.”
The housing authority had 30 days to respond to HUD’s review findings from the time the findings were made known.