The state auditor’s office last week revealed that the Albuquerque-based Region III Housing Authority was a “center of abuse and management.” But State Auditor Hector Balderas said the state’s other regional housing agencies also had big problems, including the one in northeastern New Mexico.
His office’s report showed that the Albuquerque authority reimbursed board members and employees for such things as flowers, booze, a Las Vegas trip, a private club membership and a designer briefcase.
Las Vegas is in the area covered by the Region II Housing Authority, which was supposed to help provide low-income housing in San Miguel, Santa Fe, Mora, Taos, Rio Arriba, Los Alamos and Colfax counties.
Las Vegas has its own housing authority, but under the regional system, the area should have received assistance from Region II.
But Balderas said the Region II authority was essentially defunct. According to the audit, the expenditure documentation and tenant files for the Section 8 Housing program in Region II were not available. Several months of bank statements were missing as were the minutes of most board meetings. No rosters for board members could be found.
Region II has suffered from many of the same problems as four others. However, two regional agencies, based in Roswell and Silver City, are in sound financial shape and in operation, officials said.
“The problem is that many of the regions lacked state oversight. The fiscal year budgets were never approved by the state Department of Finance and Administration. They acted as minigovernments,” Balderas said.
He said the state law that created the regional authorities many years ago didn’t include requirements for oversight. Indeed, Region II was four years behind in its audits.
Balderas said for many of the regions, his auditors struggled to find the offices and then found that they were empty with boxes.
He said the state hasn’t provided the authorities with enough money to make a real difference, so he suggested the state consolidate the regions.
“They should be put under state oversight and they should be under the same policies as other state entities,” Balderas said.