By now, you are likely familiar with the latest sensational rumor surrounding the extraordinary accounting skills of US Secretary of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), Dr. Ben Carson.
As the story goes, not only is Secretary Carson a gifted surgeon, he is also a fantastically powerful accountant who uncovered more than $500 billion in “fraudulent” HUD record-keeping when he ordered an audit of the Department, just days after being confirmed.
Fringe news publications have been heralding this discovery as one of the many successes of the new administration: apt financial leadership that will lead our country back to greatness. The coverage also conveniently serves to rally opposition to, and suspicion of, vital HUD programs that serve millions.
But is there any truth to this claim? Has Secretary Carson magically uncovered accounting errors totaling an enormous 800% of HUD’s annual operating budget?
Short answer? No.
Long Answer? No.
We’ve heard from many of our followers, asking if this or real or fake news.
To set the record straight:
The audit in question was not ordered by Ben Carson. Snopes reported that the audit was instead ordered by HUD’s Office of the Inspector General (OIG) on November 15, 2016, two months before Carson was even nominated to the position of HUD Secretary. The report was re-issued on March 1 of this year, after the audit highlighted discrepancies and inconsistencies within HUD reports.
What’s more, the report addresses total accounting errors, or “the absolute value of all numeric corrections made to HUD financial records” over the period being examined – meaning that positive and negative figures were totalled to arrive at the large figure of over $500 billion.
The report reads:
“The total amounts of errors corrected in HUD’s notes and consolidated financial statements were $516.4 billion and $3.4 billion, respectively”.
The same Snopes article explains the distinction between total errors versus one lump sum error, below:
“A simple analogy would be to consider a bookkeeper who mistakenly entered the same $1,000 payment into a ledger six times: the aggregate value of those mistakes would be $5,000, but that would not mean the hapless bookkeeper actually “found” and/or “lost” $5,000 in real funds, or that that amount of money ever actually passed through his hands.”
Carson is no more a magical investigator-accountant than he is a qualified HUD Secretary.
Carson did not uncover $500 billion in misplaced funds.
Carson has however, threatened the housing security of millions of Americans by supporting budget cuts that would cripple rental programs that house our seniors, veterans, children, and formerly homeless, de-fund Community Development Block Grants that support vibrant communities, and endanger the health of our children by gutting funds that help rid homes of pollutants like mold.
Ben Carson has done a lot, but he has not done this.
Continue to email us at firstname.lastname@example.org with your Carson news, and we’ll keep dispelling myth from fact.