Mr. Chairman, I very much appreciate your calling this hearing. I have often said that oversight is a crucial function of the Congress, and I think it is very important to do a review of the agencies to make sure that they are meeting their responsibilities in an efficient and effective way.
This is particularly true in the case of HUD, which has had ongoing management problems for many years. Having said that, I also want to note that, according to the GAO, HUD was on a positive trajectory with regards to its management and oversight functions. One of the things we emphasized to both Secretary Martinez and Deputy Secretary Jackson is the need to keep that positive momentum going. I think it is appropriate, now that the new leadership has been in place at HUD for over a year, to assess exactly what direction things are moving.
Let me start by making a few observations. HUD provides a broad array of services to millions of Americans, from rental assistance, to economic development opportunities, to capacity building for non-profits, to mortgage insurance for homeowners. We ask HUD to do a lot, but we provide it with far too few resources. We need to work together to make sure that HUD is making the best use of the resources it does get; once we accomplish that, it will become easier to advocate for more funds going forward.
For that reason, it is very important to keep an open dialogue among the Department, its employees, and the Committee. Unfortunately, that has not always been the case. For example, I was concerned that the Committee found out about HUD's reorganization plan late last year from outside parties. Even after finding out about it, the Department was slow in briefing our staff on the new plans.
I am also concerned about the resistance from the Department with regards to meeting requests for information from the General Accounting Office. The Committee's oversight role is a serious responsibility; the GAO is our partner in this job. HUD must be cooperative in providing information as needed. I hope that the GAO witness, Mr. Czerwinski will address this very important issue.
Mr. Chairman, there are two other issues I want to raise briefly. We have to make sure that all the old Intermediary and Outreach Technical Assistance Grants (ITAG and OTAG) owed to small non-profits working with residents around the country are paid. We were assured by the Secretary in February that these would be paid once it was determined that no Anti-Deficiency Act violation occurred. In fact, there was no violation, but, as of late last week, not all payments had been made.
In addition, the Department should get the program up and running again. The OTAG and ITAG programs are important tools in helping assisted housing residents get organized to participate in the restructuring or purchase of their projects. Without this technical assistance money, residents will not be able to play the role forseen for them by the Congress.
Finally, Mr. Chairman, I want to emphasize the importance of getting the Office of Multifamily Housing Assistance Restructuring (OMHAR) fully staffed up. This Committee moved in an expeditious fashion to pass legislation to ensure that OMHAR and the mark-to-market program would be reauthorized, in no small part because the GAO testified about the importance of maintaining the good staff that has been put together. We also agreed to put the Office under the supervision of the Assistant Secretary of Housing. However, we maintained its distinctive and somewhat independent character and authority in order to make sure it could continue to do its work. I am concerned that OMHAR is being stifled in its efforts to use its flexibility to retain and hire staff, and to get its work done in a timely manner.
Once again, Mr. Chairman, thank you for holding this hearing. I look forward to working with you and the leadership at HUD in ensuring that the Department continues to improve its management, and the delivery of its services.