Report 99127 Summary - May 2000

Los Angeles Housing Opportunities for Persons With AIDS Program:

Prompt Spending of Federal Funds and Program Monitoring Would Improve Services to Recipients

RESULTS IN BRIEF

Responding to evidence that people with AIDS constituted a growing proportion of the homeless population, Congress created the Housing Opportunities for Persons With AIDS (HOPWA) program, which provides state and local governments with the resources to devise long-term comprehensive strategies for meeting the housing needs of persons and their families living with AIDS or related diseases. The federal Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) administers the program at the federal level, and the Los Angeles Housing Department (department) administers the program in Los Angeles County (county), using 48 service providers. Following months of allegations that the program has not done all that it could to serve the homeless and low-income populations with HIV/AIDS, the city of Los Angeles (city) hired a consultant to take a comprehensive look at the program's effectiveness and administration.

The consultant's extensive review covered some of the concerns that brought about our audit, and his report includes numerous recommendations to improve the department's administration of the program. The consultant's conclusions about the HOPWA program included the following:

  • It cannot by itself furnish the resources to meet the substantial need for affordable housing for persons with HIV/AIDS in the county.

  • It uses funds for appropriate purposes.

  • It lacks planning that systematically addresses the needs and problems of eligible recipients, and has not developed a strategic plan as required in the consolidated plan.

  • It has multi-year contracts that lead to public misunderstanding of its program spending.

  • It was understaffed, but now has adequate staff to perform its current workload.
We reviewed the consultant's report, concurred with his basic conclusions, and drew further conclusions based on additional work we performed. We found that, although the HOPWA program has good reasons not to have fully spent funds for long-term commitments such as the capital development component of the program, it has been slow to allocate and spend other grant funds. For example, as of June 30, 1999, the end of the city's fiscal year, the HOPWA program had not encumbered in contracts $12.7 million (22 percent) of the $53.2 million in program funds that the city allocated since fiscal year 1993-94. Contracts represent resources that service providers need to supply housing and other services to homeless and low-income persons with HIV/AIDS. A lengthy planning and contracting process that could be shortened has contributed substantially to the HOPWA program's difficulty in issuing contracts. Fortunately, HUD has allowed extensions on spending, and the program is not currently in jeopardy of losing funding.

In addition, HOPWA staff do not know whether the program as a whole or service providers individually always meet overall goals that the program identified in its five-year consolidated plan and the annual updates to that plan. HOPWA can neither readily compare the effectiveness of service providers or separately funded program components nor effectively plan for the future because it has no procedures to track how well it has met its goals. Further, it does not link the broad goals in the consolidated plan with more specific reporting of accomplishments required in contracts. It also does not take full advantage of the federally required audit reports it receives on the performance of service providers. Moreover, due to a lack of staff, the HOPWA program has not been able to perform site visits to determine the effectiveness of service providers.

Finally, the appearance of conflict of interest exists in certain actions of the HOPWA advisory committee and its subcommittees. As a result, public confidence in the fairness and propriety of committee decisions may be undermined, and the HOPWA program's effectiveness may be impaired. The advisory committee and its subcommittees include members who are officers or employees of the program's service providers, entities which could benefit from the committee's and subcommittees' decisions. HOPWA does not take appropriate steps to eliminate the appearance of conflict of interest. Although the general public does provide valuable input in subcommittee discussions, the public is also allowed to participate in subcommittee votes, which provides an opportunity for those who may benefit from recommendations to influence those decisions. HOPWA staff also do not always ensure that members file all of the required conflict-of-interest statements, nor do they record the individual votes of committee members in the minutes or meeting transcripts, which would indicate whether committee members were voting on matters in which they had a conflict of interest.

RECOMMENDATIONS

The department should consider and implement the consultant's recommendations as soon as possible. We have the following additional recommendations.

To expedite the planning and contracting process, the city and the HOPWA program should consider working with HUD and completing the consolidated plan as early as federal law allows, and submit the package for the request for proposals (RFP) to the mayor and city council for approval at the same time it submits the consolidated plan.

To ensure that it is able to meet its stated goals and plan efficiently, the HOPWA program should:

  • Track and compare its goals with its overall accomplishments and the accomplishments of service providers for each of its program components. It should also create a link between the broad goals stated in the consolidated plan to the reporting of more specific accomplishments required in contracts so that it can evaluate service providers' performance.

  • Assess what additional monitoring of service providers is needed, including site visits, and determine how many additional staff it needs to perform this monitoring.
To eliminate the appearance of conflict of interest, the city should exclude the general public from voting on recommendations before the subcommittees of the HOPWA program's advisory committee. In addition, the HOPWA program should do the following:
  • Ensure that all members of the advisory committee complete a conflict-of-interest statement annually and use the information in the statements to prevent members from voting when a potential conflict of interest exists.

  • Consistently record votes and abstentions from voting in all meeting minutes and transcripts.

DEPARTMENT COMMENTS

The department generally agrees with the information in our report and plans to consider our recommendations as well as those of the consultant. However, the department feels that our recommendation to submit the RFP package at the same time it submits the consolidated plan for consideration to the mayor and city council would be burdensome


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