How does GHURA's federal repayment affect local recipients? - KUAM.com-KUAM News: On Air. Online. On Demand.

How does GHURA's federal repayment affect local recipients?

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Just as the Guam Housing and Urban Renewal Authority continues to review a federal report advising them to pay back nearly $2 million in federal housing funds, what does it mean for the nearly thousands of individuals who currently receive housing assistance?

"I want to assure the community that these findings will not have an immediate impact on our ability to administer the programs," stated GHURA director Michael Duenas, referring to a report recently released by the US Department of Housing and Urban Development's Departmental Enforcement Center. "They already had a list of issues that the Honolulu office asked them to review, but they also looked at all our system of internal controls and all our various policies and procedures," he said.

The report first asked GHURA to repay back nearly $600,000 in legal fees and housing funds paid to GHURA's former legal counsel. The report determined there was a violation of conflict of interest rules as the former legal counsel was also a landlord under the Section 8 program. "We did have a legal opinion by another lawyer that said there was no conflict of interest. Again, it comes down to his position as our legal counsel, was he involved in the decisions made by the Section 8 program, was he involved in the formulation of policies concerning the Section 8 program, and I think this is where HUD is looking at," Duenas added.

The second finding involved paying back $1.4 million. Back in 2004, GHURA received $1.7 million to construct a building; however, only $300,000 was spent for a building design and nothing was ever constructed.

Duenas says GHURA had the discretion to use those funds, saying, "That's part of what we'll be discussing with the Honolulu office. Not that the event happened but we had the discretionary authority based on our understanding of the regulations and laws at the time."

Whether GHURA will be making any repayment will be further discussed when the Honolulu director for HUD's Public Housing Program will be on Guam next week. "We are now at a position where we have to discuss with HUD to what extent any repayment has to be made and whether this is a repayment that GHURA has to make or whether the individual involved has to be make," Duenas added. And with over 1,100 landlords and 2,400 families currently under the Section 8 program - what does this report mean to services for them?

The director said, "They will still continue to be available to the community and I also want to assure the community that our employees here are held to a high standard of integrity so we do not believe the programs are in jeopardy."

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