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Public Housing Spotlight

Issue36.html">Back to Issue 36 of the Spotlight!

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A Publication of the
National Association of Housing Information Managers

Volume VIII, No. 12

December 1, 1999

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Training Provided To HUD Field Staff

Last month we reported that HUD was going to be implementing a new PIH Information Center as of Nov. 1. Unfortunately, there was an unforeseen delay in the process, and the PIC is not yet available to PHAs as of Dec. 1.

Most of the delay was caused by a decision to train the HUD field staff first, so that when the system is implemented and PHAs are asked to start submitting data, they will be able to get assistance from individuals in their local field office.

When the PIC system becomes operational all PHAs will be expected to review and update a variety of PHA information online. For example, the first step will be for all PHAs to review and update their Capital Fund data. Since the Capital Fund is now replacing both the CIAP and CompGrant programs, this program will be essential for all PHAs.

Because of HUD's delay in making the system available, there will be an automatic extension in the time that PHAs have for reviewing and submitting their data. There is no need for a PHA to request an extension. The new deadline will be released after HUD has determined when the PIC system will be available for PHA use.

In getting ready to use the PIC, all PHAs need to be aware of the technical requirements associated with the PC that will be used to transmit data. The designated system must have the following features:

  • Computer with Pentium Processor or higher
  • 100 Mb or larger hard drive
  • 16 Mb or more RAM
  • 28.8 KBps or higher modem connected to an outside phone line or a direct connection to the Internet.
  • Internet Browser: Netscape 4.0 or higher or Internet Explorer 4.0 or higher (If you already have an Internet browser, but need a newer version, you can upgrade your browser free of charge on the Internet. Check the Netscape or Microsoft home pages on how to download a newer version of your current browser.)

A related problem is that the PIC User Guide is not currently available. It will be posted to the PIC Web site for printing prior to the release of the PIC system. To keep track of the PIC system status, you may want to frequently view:

  • http://www.hud.gov/pih/systems/pic/pichome.html
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Web Site Highlights Problems

The New York City Housing Authority is the nation's largest housing authority and for many years was considered to be one of the nation's best-managed PHAs. That is now questionable recently came across a Web site that lists a variety of problems, some of them potentially criminal, that may exist at the NYCHA, a PHA with more than 250,000 units and an annual budget of $2.5 billion. The Web site can be found at:

  • public-housing.html

The Web site has this name because Jack Ballinger, a former NYCHA employee who was hired as a Supervisor of Mechanical Installation, but later spent most of his time working on data processing issues, puts out a publication called the "Public Housing Spotlight on NYCHA." The publication is distributed by fax to many NYCHA employees and is also put on the Web site.

Ballinger started putting out his "Spotlight" generally twice a month, beginning in June 1998. He includes information from a variety of sources about different problems within the Authority. The newsletter does not deal with problems caused by lower level staff employees. Instead it focuses on the activities of the higher level political employees. Many of these accusations, if proven in a court, could result in jail time for some of the participants.

Some of the problems might interest NAHIM members because they are related to data processing.

For example:

1) There is concern that NYCHA may not be ready for Y2K and may not have any Y2K funding left. If this turns out to be the case, the Authority's top managers may fire Jorge Cardenas, the chief information operator of the Authority, along with some other lower ranking d p. staff members, according to Ballinger.

Cardenas' predecessor had been sent to appropriate Y2K training classes, but NYCHA fired him after several female employees brought charges against him for improper conduct towards them, Ballinger's newsletter reported.

To check on this potential problem we logged on to the housing authority's Web site which is:

  • http://www.ci.nyc.ny.us/pub-hous/nycha/home.html

There on the home page was a list of various items such as a mission statement, press releases and sealed bid requests. The second item on this menu was labeled: "NYCHA APPROACHES Y2K. We selected this option, with the presumption that it would explain what the Authority had done to prepare for Y2K. When the screen came up, it provided basic information about the size and organization of the Authority with no mention of any Y2K preparations.

This article was dated January 1999. We are unaware of any organization in the United States that hasn't reported on its Y2K preparation activities more recently than 11 months ago.

2) There is also a situation where the NYCHA has spent over a million dollars in contract fees for a modem time-keeping system. Ballinger claims, however, that many at NYCHA still can't figure out how to use it, or even decide if it's worth using. This would be bad enough, but it appears that the contract was given to friends of the vice-chairman of the Authority.

3) One of Ballinger's original charges is that more than $50 million was paid through the Authority's Financial Management System that can't be adequately documented. Ballinger said:

"These same contracts did not exist in the CAD (Contract Administration Department) computer system that is supposed to track them. Simply put, this means that there were no records of inspections on any of these contracts. There was no way of knowing if the contracts were really being completed, no way of knowing if the contractor had insurance or was paying prevailing wage. In essence, it couldn't be said that any work was ever done on these contracts. The only thing that NYCHA had records of was checks signed over to contractors."

4) The Authority signed a contract to rent warehouse space for 20 years for just over $100 million. This wouldn't be exceptional except for the fact that only months earlier, the warehouse had been purchased by friends of the commissioners for only $8.3 million.

Ballinger said political considerations are blocking an independent investigation of the apparent wrongdoing at the NYCHA.

He said he brought this information to the attention of the HUD Inspector General, but when he contacted the Inspector General's office to determine what steps had been taken, he was told they had forwarded his information to the New York regional IG. When Ballinger subsequently contacted the New York IG's office, they told him that they couldn't discuss the matter.

The New York regional office is unusually well-connected politically. Bill deBlasio, Region 2 Secretary's Representative (Regional Administrator), is set to become First Lady Hillary Clinton's campaign manager when she enters the New York Senate race, the New York Times reported Nov. 24.
(Ed note: This issue of the NAHIM News was published on December 1, 1999. As of December 6, 1999, Mr deBlasio did indeed become Mrs. Clinton's NY Senate Race Campaign Chair.)

Two state assemblymen from New York City also have tried to interest the New York Attorney General's office in the NYCHA's questionable use of funds. In response the Attorney General referred the matter back to New York City officials.

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Consultation With Data Processing Specialists

On Monday, Nov. 8, HUD held a meeting in Washington on the subject of public and assisted housing information technology, with a particular emphasis on the operation of the MTCS system.

Approximately 75 people attended the meeting. The participants included representatives from a number of PHAs, HUD staff from field and Headquarters offices, and employees of Price Waterhouse Coopers, which is the firm hired to do all of the programming for the MTCS system.

All of those attending were divided into five smaller groups for informal discussions to develop a list of strengths and problems with the MTCS system. Among the recommendations:

  • HUD should provide more advance notice of changes it is making to MTCS.
  • HUD should provide a test environment so PHAs can try to enter data on a practice basis.
  • HUD should provide a few user fields in the MTCS system, that PHAs can use as they desire.
  • HUD should review and approve the software developed by vendors, so it is clearly functional.

Because HUD personnel were attending and participating in each of the group sessions, the concerns raised will reach senior HUD staff. To the extent that problems seemed to be identified by several of the groups, HUD will probably take steps to correct the problems or develop workarounds.

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Tenmast and Millennium Software Join

A major business announcement made at the NAHRO National Conference has reduced the number of major PHA software vendors by one.

NAHIM associate member Millennium Software of Ruston, La,. has just been purchased by Tenmast Software of Lexington, Ky. One of the key features of the merger is that all staff members of both firms will continue to work. Mark Lewis, the president of Millenium Software, will move from Ruston to Lexington, but most of the remaining staffers of Millennium Software will remain in Ruston. Lewis will have a senior sales position with the combined company. The merger of the two firms means that Tenmast Software will now have more than 500 PHAs as clients around the country.

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Group Discusses Recent Developments

The National Public Housing Authority Users Group met early in November in Miami. The group, made up of approximately 120 PHAs, had a week of programs related to public housing data processing. Many of the members are users of CCS software, because the group was originally known as the CCS User Group. The next meeting will be held in Atlanta May 14-19.

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A Special Opportunity

We would like to remind members that we would be pleased to run any classified ads you may have when seeking new employees in the data processing field. NAHIM now has nearly 250 PHA members in 44 states, and NAHIM readers are in most cases experienced public housing data processing personnel. As a result, we believe the NAHIM News is one of the best ways to contact other data processing personnel. Help wanted ads will be placed without charge to members, and for a minimal charge for nonmembers. Just call us at 1-800-379-3807.

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We would like to welcome the following three new housing authorities that have joined recently.

  • Pinelas County H. A., Clearwater, FL
  • Municipal Housing Authority, Yonkers, NY
  • Washington County H.A., Washington, PA
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NAHIM Is Ready

Since this is the last issue of the NAHIM News you will receive before the year 2000, we want to assure all of our members that we are prepared for any potential Y2K problems. Our most crucial records of members and dues payments exist not only on our primary PC, but also in printed copies and floppy disks in several locations.

We would like to serve as a resource for all of our members during the coming few weeks. If you have any problems or questions, please feel free to call us at 800-379-3807. We can't guarantee that we will have the answer to your problems, but we will certainly do our best to assist you in anyway we can.

If you do have any Y2K problems, we would appreciate your letting us know about them, so we can accurately report on any significant problems in our January issue. Because most of our members have email addresses, we would be particularly pleased if you would let us know of any problems before the end of December, because we would then be able to send out appropriate notices by email.

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A Potential Opportunity

As our members are aware, the NAHIM News has frequently incorporated information about interesting Web sites in our Newsletter. We listed the addresses of members' Web sites in the October 1999 issue, and we frequently display a HUD Web site address or the address of another interesting vendor. One of the items we haven't published is the Web site address of a tenant group. This is because we were unaware of any tenant Web sites. We no longer are.

Tenants in the New York City area now have their own Web site. There is a variety of information on-line, including decisions of the New York City Housing Court. The site also contains references to tenant locations in several other states. To view this Web site go to:

  • http://tenant.net/
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Copyright by the
National Association of Housing Information Managers
PO Box 67202
Lincoln, NE 68506
(402) 466-9424
(800) 379-3807
John Mooring, Exec. Dir.
Mary Kay Quinlan, Editor

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Back to Issue 36 of the Spotlight!