Federal government employees who are defrauding federal housing assistance programs are coming under increased scrutiny because of a new initiative dubbed “Operation FedRent,” announced today by Housing and Urban Development Secretary Alphonso Jackson and HUD’s Inspector General Kenneth M. Donohue. The new anti-fraud effort is designed to expose and prosecute federal government employees who misrepresent their incomes to obtain rental subsidies, effectively denying housing assistance to eligible families.

HUD and its Office of Inspector General will deploy computer-matching techniques to reveal whether federal employees receiving rental assistance are under-reporting their income, the agencies said. Once identified, these tenants will be required to repay any excess assistance and the appropriate administrative or legal action will be taken.

“Operation FedRent is more than just protecting the integrity of our housing programs, it’s about making sure every available dollar reaches those in need,” Jackson said today in a statement. “The message here is clear — if federal employees misrepresent their income to qualify for housing assistance they would otherwise not be eligible for, they’ll be held accountable. I applaud the efforts of the Inspector General in pursuing such wrongdoers.”

“Federal employees who earn enough income to rent their own apartment or home but conceal their worth to qualify for rental assistance are taking homes away from those families who truly need them. The OIG is committed to serving the American taxpayer by working diligently to ensure that HUD programs are not abused by unscrupulous individuals,” said Inspector General Donohue.

HUD currently spends more than $26 billion a year to support a number of rental assistance programs that serves approximately 4.8 million families. In 2000, HUD estimated that tenant under-reporting of income cost taxpayers $978 million. HUD’s efforts to tighten controls in its rental assistance programs are working. The Department has dramatically cut rental miscalculations by half and tenant under-reporting of income by 73 percent. Initiatives like “Operation FedRent” help build on HUD’s operational improvements to cut waste, fraud and abuse in its rental assistance programs.

HUD and the HUD Office of Inspector General are working together to compare internal data on reported income with employment information maintained by other federal agencies on all federal employees and retirees. From this data, “Operation FedRent” determines whether income meets the eligibility requirements.

After a thorough evaluation and comparison of the employment and housing data, investigative leads are developed and referred to the HUD Inspector General’s Regional Field Offices for further investigation.

Other leads are referred over to a number of federal Inspectors General and U.S. Attorney offices for action as appropriate.

Federal employees who are receiving housing assistance must meet household income targets in order to be eligible. In some areas of the country, waiting lists are long and a low-income family might wait months or even years to receive such assistance.

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