Administration

Watchdog says HUD stalled probe into handling of Puerto Rico aid: report

The Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) inspector general reportedly found that the department “unreasonably” delayed producing documents relating to its handling of Puerto Rico hurricane relief funds.

In a memo shared with staffers from the House and Senate appropriations committees, Inspector General Rae Oliver Davis told HUD Secretary Ben Carson that “delayed access to departmental records causes [Office of Inspector General] oversight efforts to be diluted, become stale, or worse, halt entirely,” according to The Washington Post.

Oliver Davis told Carson about the delays on Monday, the Post, citing an unidentified source, noted.

{mosads}“The OIG has put the department on ample notice that responses to our requests are untimely, that such delays negatively affect our work, and that the delays in OIG access fail to comply with the law,” Oliver Davis reportedly wrote in the memo.

Wait times for HUD electronic records spiked from an average of 95 calendar days in 2017 to 151 in 2018, an increase of more than 60 percent, she said, according to the Post. Twenty requests took more than six months in 2018, according to Oliver Davis.

A Trump administration official told the Post that the OIG’s records requests have been “really broad” and that the communications between HUD and the White House sought by the inspector general are “pre-decisional and deliberative” and may fall under the umbrella of executive privilege.

President Trump has told aides all relief funds going to Puerto Rico must be closely monitored, saying the government is corrupt, and said he wants the White House to monitor how the Federal Emergency Management Agency spends the money, according to the Post, which cited administration officials.

Trump has made similar claims on Twitter.  

“HUD has provided all requested emails to its Office of Inspector General, which included more than 2.4 million emails from the past 18 months. The scope of their request was all encompassing and, in most cases, not limited to any specific search terms,” the department said in a statement to The Hill.

“As such, nearly all of these emails, more than 95 percent, have nothing to do with Puerto Rico or the department’s response to the 2017 storms,” it added. “HUD’s Office of General Counsel filled this request in 18 days, faster than any other formal request we have record of.”

Updated at 12:13 p.m.

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