Although Jefferson Parish faced the possibility of having to pay back $1.4 million in federal housing and community development money it could not account for following an audit last year, the parish ultimately paid back just $26,400 after coming up with documentation supporting the way it spent most of the questioned money, officials said Tuesday.
A U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Office of Inspector General audit covering a two-year period ending in September 2013 had questioned more than $1 million in salary and wage payments by the parish’s Community Development Block Grant Program that were not backed up by invoices, timesheets, attendance rolls or similar documents.
The audit said program contractors chosen without proper competition or analysis received another $267,497, and a further $93,975 went to contractors who didn’t have proof that the money they got was aiding the people with low and moderate incomes it was supposed to help.
Since then, the parish sent the HUD OIG documentation backing up all but $1,444 of the questioned salary and wage payments made by the program, according to a letter from the federal agency to Jefferson Department of Community Development Director Detrich Hebert Johnson, who took over her position after the period that was audited.
The parish sent in documentation backing up all of the money given to contractors that the audit said might not have faced adequate competition or analysis. Finally, the parish sent in documentation backing up $69,000 of the money paid to the other set of contractors, leaving $24,975 unaccounted for.
The letter to Johnson, which was released Tuesday in response to a public records request from The New Orleans Advocate, said the parish had until Oct. 15 to pay back the unsupported $26,419 to the U.S. Treasury. Johnson said the parish paid the amount it owed on Oct. 9.
“It was definitely a relief to not have to ask the parish to repay HUD for more than $1 million in unaccounted expenses,” said Johnson, whose predecessor, Anatola Thompson, resigned in October 2013. “It was also a relief that these were unsupported costs and not ineligible ones, which would have been a whole other problem.”
Thompson resigned her position with the parish’s Department of Community Development ahead of a state audit alleging that she authorized payments benefiting a construction company owned by her husband.
However, Johnson said HUD had indicated to her that the audit of the parish’s use of Community Development Block Grant money was routine and not prompted by Thompson’s resignation.
HUD could not be reached for comment Tuesday.