Plagued by allegations of political favoritism and other abuses since the early 1980s, the Department of Housing and Urban Development is calling in the FBI.
In a press conference last week, HUD Secretary Andrew Cuomo said that as part of a major restructuring his agency will create an enforcement division headed by an FBI agent.
"Our key objectives are outstanding performance, efficiency, and accountability to the American people. We will not allow a single dollar to be wasted," Mr. Cuomo said.
HUD is under pressure from Congress to clean up its act or lose its funding. It is also the only agency designated as "high risk" by the General Accounting Office.
The enforcement division will oversee public housing authorities and take legal action against those that receive failing grades on their annual assessments, according to the plan.
This division would also monitor landlords of HUD-assisted private housing and crack down on fraudulent use of grants from the Community Planning Division and Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity.
The action could reduce the bureacratic maze faced by mortgage lenders and others who have been dealing with the agency.
Mr. Cuomo is also seeking Congressional approval to consolidate 300 programs and activities into 71. HUD will also eliminate over 3,000 jobs by the end of 2000. HUD currently has 10,542 employees.
Mr. Cuomo also announced plans to replace HUD's outdated financial information management systems.
These systems are the main reason the agency is on the GAO's high-risk list.
Sen. Christopher S. Bond, R-Mo, the chairman of the Senate Appropriations subcommittee with jurisdiction over HUD, said in a written statement that he expects to work with Mr. Cuomo to make HUD an "effective federal agency" but had reservations about whether the department can overcome its problems.
"HUD remains at a crossroads at which the management, fiscal, and programmatic deficiencies continue to undermine the ability of the department to administer its programs in an effective manner," the senator said.
Sen. Bond commended Mr. Cuomo's reform plan, saying it is a first step toward a comprehensive overhaul of the department, but he added that Mr. Cuomo must work with Congress to ensure that the reforms work.
"The critical concern at this juncture is that HUD still seems to be operating in a vacuum, without significant consultation with the Congress on these important reform issues," the senator said.