2021 | Government

Inspector general finds no fraud in rent fund distribution, but suggests changes

Office recommends measures to ensure proper documentation, no duplicate payments

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The county’s inspector general found no instances of fraud during a review of the county’s rental relief distribution, but recommended changes to tighten procedures.

Even though the inspector general did not find fraud, there also was no proof that there was none, according to the report.

“We cannot definitively conclude that fraud did not occur in the relevant programs,” the report stated.

The county is currently distributing its latest round of rental relief in the Rental Assistance Program, which is, in total, $59 million in state and federal money.

For the report, the inspector general reviewed a spreadsheet provided by the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), which administers one of the county’s rental relief programs, the COVID-19 Rental Relief Program. 

The inspector general reviewed 3,034 payments from that fund totaling $13 million from earlier rounds of funding, according to the report. The office also reviewed 606 payments totaling $1,090,800 administered through the Rental Assistance Program, run by the county’s Housing Opportunities Commission. 

Even though the inspector general did not find fraud in either program, there were “administrative issues” with both, the report stated. 

The report included five recommendations to DHHS:

  • Provide more oversight of funds to prevent duplicate payments, and try to recover funds wrongly awarded 
  • Create a written policy requiring that those reviewing the distribution of funds document any “resolution of discrepancies” prior to money being awarded
  • Make sure award criteria are met and documentation is provided before awarding funds
  • Write policy that determines the methodology for award calculations for different “awardee populations” and update it when the methodology or criteria change
  • Make sure written policy clearly explains all the requirements and processes that determine award eligibility for those exiting homelessness

Chief Administrative Officer Rich Madaleno wrote in a response to the inspector general that county officials concurred and/or already started implementing the recommendations, except for trying to recoup funds that were wrongly awarded.

Madaleno wrote that this would not be cost effective, and added that to qualify for rental relief programs, applicants must “have been under considerable financial strain.” 

Steve Bohnel can be reached at steve.bohnel@bethesdamagazine.com