St. John Housing Authority audit shows improvement

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, April 2, 2014

By Monique Roth

LAPLACE – The St. John the Baptist Housing Authority continues to make strides following years of mismanagement and shoddy record keeping.

Executive Director Trina Henderson, who began working with the agency in October 2012, held a special meeting with the Housing Authority Board of Commissioners recently to review audit findings, capital fund money and insurance coverage.

In 2011, 14 audit findings further solidified the agency as in “troubled” status. The agency couldn’t get a clear audit because of discrepancies in and lack of financial records.

Henderson said the agency’s “troubled” for nearly 20 years and that she and her staff have been working hard to make right decades of mismanagement.

The tide started to turn for the agency is 2012 when an “unqualified opinion” on its audit qualified the agency to receive state funding.

On March 26, Henderson presented the board of Commissioners with results from the 2013 audit. Three findings were presented to the board, and Henderson explained that one of the findings, an environmental review, wasn’t completed in time for the 2013 fiscal year, but the agency has already corrected that finding.

The other two findings pertain to the public housing program’s past failures to perform background checks on tenants. Henderson explained the agency

is now working on recertifying tenants to comply with all tenant file policies. She said the process will take a while to complete because several items were missing from each tenant’s file, but all of new staff is being trained on proper file maintenance.

“This had been an ongoing problem, and we’re in the process of rectifying that,” said Henderson. “We are working diligently to clean up files.”

Henderson said she was very pleased to present the findings to the board and felt as though they reflected the hard work the agency staff has been putting in.

In another meeting item, Henderson requested the board accept the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development proposed 2014 capital funds, which total $418,200. Henderson said some of the money would be dedicated to security issues and fencing, two items of concern that have come up in recently held meetings. The board voted to accept the money, which can roll over into future years if it is not all used this year. Henderson said the authority recently rehabbed nine housing units with money that was left over from previous years.

At the meeting, Henderson also sought the approval to renew Housing Authority property insurance coverage from the board.

Because of a bad track record with past reporting, including the failure to report several fires that caused damage to housing units, the St. John Parish Housing Authority has not had access to the Louisiana Housing Council pool for insurance coverage.

Henderson explained housing authorities that belong to the pool qualify for discounted rates and that the St. John authority was at one point a member of the pool.

Henderson said she obtained records from the fire departments and corrected the fire reporting errors. She added that the past history of the authority made it difficult to get insurance this year.

Several board members expressed interest in getting back into the pool, and Henderson said “as long as we keep reporting what happens and pay premiums on time” she anticipates that rates should get lower and that the

agency should be allowed to return to the pool. She said the insurance broker is pleased with the direction in which the agency is heading. This year, the insurance premium for the Housing Authority’s units will be just over $200,000.