State audits New Bedford Housing Authority

Massachusetts State Auditor Suzanne Bump released an audit Tuesday that found both deficiencies and improvements in the New Bedford Housing Authority.

The audit found the authority did not properly report fringe benefits for Executive Director Steven Beauregard to the federal government, and did not treat the benefits as taxable income.

The benefits, which included $650 per month paid for a leased vehicle and a life insurance premium, were not reported on Beauregard's W-2.

In its response to the report, the housing authority said its human resources manager did not realize the fringe benefits qualified as taxable income. The benefits have since been added to the director's W-2.

The audit also found incomplete annual inventories of furniture and equipment owned by the authority and the state. The report says state-owned refrigerators and stoves did not appear on any inventory records.

In their response, authority management acknowledged inventory and reconciliation had not been a priority.

Auditors did find improvement in the authority's performance in turning around vacant units for occupancy.

A 2012 state audit found it took 95 days to prepare a unit for new tenants, resulting in a loss of $153,934 in potential rental income.

The current audit found the turnaround time reduced to 40 days.

Auditors called for continued improvement, to meet the state guideline of a 21-day turnaround.

The audit report also claimed the New Bedford Housing Authority was not maintaining application and waiting lists as required by state mandates.

The guidelines require handwritten ledgers, because they are more difficult for someone to alter.

In its response, the authority said it keeps computerized records and has applied for a waiver to the state rules.

It added, "It is incomprehensible how any agency in the 21st century would be advocating for manual reports."

The New Bedford Housing Authority oversees housing units for 168 families, 389 elderly residents, 330 veterans and 16 special needs clients.