Maine State Housing Officials Answer Scathing Section 8 Audit 

Maine State Housing Authority board members say they’ll continue scrutinizing the housing agency’s operations and finances following a federal audit that found it failed to provide adequate oversight for its Section 8 program. Chairman Peter Anastos and fellow board members Bruce Poliquin and Lincoln Merrill held a news conference in Augusta on Wednesday to discuss the audit and the agency. The audit, done by the U.S. Housing and Urban Development’s Inspector General, found that 53 of 61 Section 8 housing units that were inspected, did not meet federal standards. Nearly half of those inspected had emergency or life-threatening violations that required correction within 24-hours. “We’ve already started to address some of these issues in that we are no longer using outside vendors to inspect these apartments. We’re doing it ourselves,” said Bruce Poliquin, Maine State Treasurer and a Maine State Housing Authority Board Member. “However the apartments that we had inspected ourselves at Maine State Housing Authority, our own inspectors also failed miserably on this job.”The Maine State Housing Authority has also been ordered to pay back more than $300,000 to the federal government. Most of that money, $194,956, is to reimburse the federal government for housing assistance payments for units that didn’t meet the federal standard. The state must also pay back $111,742 for awarding a contract to an information technology consultant without following HUD’s or their own procurement regulation or policies on noncompetitive proposals.The forfeiture of more than $300,000 puts additional stress on an already tight budget at the Maine State Housing Authority. “We have a shrinking amount of tax dollars coming from Maine taxpayers and from the federal government,” Poliquin said. “And we must help those who are most vulnerable among us. We have a shrinking amount of money. So we have to be very careful how we spend these dollars. Be very efficient in how it’s spent. And not waste money.”