Opening Statements of Committee Members

Opening Statement of Senator Wayne Allard (R-CO)

Hearing on the Department of Housing & Urban Development's Community Builder's Program
9:30 a.m., Thursday, February 24, 2000

Today’s hearing will examine the Community Builders program at the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

There are four issues that we will focus on today.

First, the recent audit of the Community Builders program by HUD’s Inspector General.

Second, the high cost of the Community Builders program -- 40 percent of all Community Builders are GS-15s with salaries ranging from $75,000 to over $100,000.

Third, whether the Community Builders program is a wise use of resources.

Fourth, the status of HUD compliance with the Congressional Directive to terminate 400 of the 800 Community Builder positions.

Today we have four witnesses.

Senator Kit Bond, Chairman of the VA/HUD Appropriations Subcommittee. He will discuss last year’s requirement that the External Community Builders program be terminated. He will join us when he arrives from other commitments.

We also have a three person panel made up entirely of employees of the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

We have Deputy Secretary Saul Ramirez who will present the Administration’s views on the Community Builders program.

We have Mr. Mike Beard, from the HUD Inspector General’s office, he will provide testimony on the recent IG audit of the Community Builders Program.

And we have Ms. Irene Facha [Faa-shaa], President of the American Federation of Government Employees, Local 2032 in the Philadelphia office of HUD.

While the Community Builders program has never been authorized by the Congress, it constitutes a huge commitment of HUD resources.

Currently, there are 800 Community Builders at HUD, nearly 10 percent of all employees at the Department. This is a huge commitment of resources, but it may not be a wise commitment of resources.

A review of the Inspector General’s audit raises very serious concerns with the Community Builders.

First, many of the Community Builders may have been improperly hired.

Second, the Community Builders’ value is minimal. While there are experienced Community Builders who do good work, it is not at all clear why this good work cannot be done through HUD’s regular programs.

Community Builders appear to be largely public relations personnel. And their public relations function has at times strayed into the realm of political advocacy.

Third, in order to establish the Community Builders program, HUD had to divert significant salary, training, and travel dollars from its core mission of monitoring and enforcement.

This is a dangerous move for a “high risk” agency. It is also a move that dramatically reduced morale among career employees.

Fourth, the intervention of Community Builders may have cost taxpayers millions of dollars in improper property dispositions. In one case, HUD sold a property in which it had invested $17 million for $10.

I am particularly pleased that we are able to hear from a union representative today.

Throughout my Chairmanship of this Subcommittee, my staff and I have been contacted by numerous HUD employees who complain of the Community Builders program.

They speak of a mis-allocation of resources,

they speak of privileged treatment for the Community Builders,

they speak of poorly trained personnel given critical responsibilities,

It is commendable that Ms. Facha is willing to speak publicly on this matter. And I thank her for being here.

Due to the IG report, and the numerous complaints from HUD employees regarding the Community Builders program, Congress decided to terminate the 400 External Community Builders in FY 2000.

We have therefore invited Deputy Secretary Ramirez here today to discuss how the Administration is complying with the law and to present the Administration’s view of the effectiveness of the Community Builders program.

Each witness is asked to limit their opening comments to 5 minutes. Your full statements will be entered into the Record.

We will then have time for an extensive question and answer period.

Mr. Ramirez has requested to go last, so Mr. Beard please proceed.