Survey of State and Local Offices Administering Section 521 Rental Assistance (GAO-04-978SP)

U.S. Government Accountability Office

This document presents the results of GAO’s survey of the Rural Housing Service’s (RHS) state and local offices administering the Section 521 Rental Assistance Program. The purpose of the survey was to determine (1) how RHS distributes rental assistance through state and local offices, (2) how RHS monitors the rental assistance distribution process, and (3) the sufficiency of the internal controls RHS uses to oversee the distribution process. To obtain data about RHS rental assistance distribution, we surveyed RHS state and local offices with rental assistance responsibilities using a web-based questionnaire. The questionnaire covered topics related to the rental assistance program, specifically, general office and staff information; renewal contracts; unused rental assistance; transfers; the tenant application process; tenant certifications; project worksheets; rent setting; reserve accounts; and technology and resources. We identified 248 state and local offices with rental assistance responsibilities. We provided information to access the web questionnaire via e-mail for those officials identified as being the appropriate office contact. To ensure security and data integrity, we provided each official with a username and password that allowed him or her to access and complete the questionnaire.

The questionnaire was activated on March 12, 2004 and was available until May 3, 2004. From the 248 offices we identified, we obtained 230 useable responses for an overall response rate of 92.7 percent. Respondents were asked to provide written comments to open-ended questions; however, to maintain the confidentiality of participants, responses to these items are not provided here. In addition, we have not included survey data that were not relevant to topics discussed in the current report, or data that were determined to be unreliable. A more detailed discussion of our scope and methodology, and a discussion of the survey results are contained in our report, Rural Housing Service: Updated Guidance and Additional Monitoring Needed for Rental Assistance Distribution Process. Clicking on the following link will provide access to this report (GAO-04-937). We conducted our survey work from April 2003 through July 2004 in accordance with generally accepted government auditing standards.

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