Audit shows Housing Authority of Lake Charles may have violated state constitution

LAKE CHARLES, LA (KPLC) - An investigative audit by the Louisiana Legislative Auditor’s Office shows the Housing Authority of Lake Charles paid a contractor thousands for undocumented inspections.

According to the report, the Housing Authority of the City of Lake Charles paid an independent contractor $118,473 for undocumented work from October 1, 2015 to September 30, 2018. The report states the contractor did not keep sufficient documentation of inspections during the three years the Housing Authority paid them, leaving the Auditor’s Office unable to determine if the amount paid to the contractor was reasonable.

“It’s embarrassing as hell, but you got to fix it.” Ben Taylor, Executive Director for the Housing Authority of Lake Charles said.

According to the report, the contractor was paid $17 per inspection, even if the tenant or owner was not at home. Taylor verified these are called “no shows.”

Click HERE to read the full report.

The contractor told auditors he had compiled notes for each inspection and ‘no show’ to turn in invoices to the Housing Authority. According to the audit, a “Section 8 manager approved the inspection invoices without documentation of which units” the contractor visited. That manager reportedly told auditors she did not verity the inspections were performed.

For the first two years the contractor was employed by the Housing Authority, he logged over 9,000 inspections; 68 percent of those were undocumented “no shows.” The number of inspections the contractor logged averages to around 18 inspections a day. The contractor was paid $109,276 over the first two years he was employed.

In January 2018, the Housing Authority began tracking “no shows”, and from October 1, 2017 to September 30, 2018, the contractor invoiced 2,779 inspections, 824, or around 30 percent, were “no shows.” The contractor was paid $9,197 that year.

Those inspections, as explained by the contractor to auditors, included an initial inspection before a unit can be included in the program; a tenant complains about a unit, an annual inspection, and mold remediation inspections.

Because of the lack of documentation, the Legislative Auditor's office state the Housing Authority of Lake Charles "may have improperly donated public funds" to the contractor, violating the state constitution.

“Well we realize we have to make changes," Taylor said. "I mean, when you get punched in the nose like this, you realize it’s not right. And we are making changes.”

One of those changes, Taylor says, is not paying per inspection.

We reached out to the contractor, who declined to comment on the audit.

The report has been submitted to the District Attorney for the 14th Judicial District of Louisiana.

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