HUD plays fast and loose with computer buys, GAO says

HUD plays fast and loose with computer buys, GAO says

Computers at the Housing and Urban Development Department are vulnerable to loss or misuse because HUD lacks controls to account for them, the General Accounting Office says.

In its new report, GAO follows up on reviews done in 2002 and last year. In the previous audits, the agency raised concerns that HUD did not keep adequate records in its asset management system for computers bought with government purchase cards. The department also did not perform regular inventories to verify the amount and location of computer equipment.

As a result, neither HUD nor GAO could reliably determine how many computers and peripherals were bought from fiscal 2001 through fiscal 2003. GAO was able to figure out from four of HUD's vendors that more than $2.2 million had been spent on 2,388 items during those years and that none of these buys had been recorded in HUD's asset system.

Of those purchases, GAO found more than $82,000 in equipment was lost or missing. HUD's reported computer and equipment buys totaled $59 million during the years reviewed. The department uses its asset management system to document inventories of items such as computers, furniture, weapons and audiovisual equipment.

'Until HUD corrects the weaknesses in its internal controls, accountability over existing computer equipment will remain problematic, and these assets will continue to be vulnerable to loss or misappropriation,' said Linda Calbom, director of financial management and assurance at GAO.

In a written response to the report, the department agreed with GAO's findings and said it would follow the recommendations for improving the system and its inventorying process.

HUD plans to establish requirements for document maintenance, reconcile the asset management data against recorded amounts in its general ledger each quarter, do an inventory annually and update the asset system to reflect the inventory results. HUD personnel also need education and training about the importance of following established procedures for recording equipment buys, GAO said.

About the Author

Mary Mosquera is a reporter for Federal Computer Week.

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