Wednesday, July 8, 2020

HUD Appoints Federal Financial Monitor to Oversee Puerto Rico, USVI Disaster Recovery Funds

By on January 17, 2020

WASHINGTON – The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) today announced Robert M. Couch as the Federal Financial Monitor to oversee the grant administration and disbursement process of disaster recovery funds to Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

“We are glad to have Robert re-join our Department to manage our financial oversight operations in Puerto Rico,” said HUD Secretary Ben Carson. “He has an extensive background with decades of private and public sector experience dealing with financial reporting, risk management, and executing the law. Robert will be an asset in supporting HUD’s mission to continue aiding recovery efforts in Puerto Rico while ensuring that appropriated funds are used in a responsible manner and for their intended purpose.”

“I greatly appreciate the Secretary’s confidence in me,” said Couch. “I share his dedication to the recovery from Hurricanes Irma and Maria, and his determination to ensuring that the funds entrusted to HUD by Congress for the survivors are expended as quickly as possible while still safeguarding against waste, fraud and abuse. I look forward to working with the disaster recovery teams in both locales, and I thank Olga Castellón, the Acting FFM, for paving the way so I can hit the ground running.”

Couch will join HUD as a career member of the Senior Executive Service. He previously served as HUD’s General Counsel from December 2006 to November 2008 where he acted as the chief legal advisor to the Secretary, Deputy Secretary, and other principal staff, providing advice on federal laws, regulations, and policies affecting HUD programs. Couch also served as President of the Government National Mortgage Association (Ginnie Mae), Commissioner on the Bipartisan Policy Center’s Housing Commission, and as a member of President George W. Bush’s Task Force on the Status of Puerto Rico.

Prior to his government service, Couch was President and Chief Executive Officer of New South Federal Savings Bank in Birmingham, Alabama, and acted as General Counsel and Chief Financial Officer of First Commercial Bancshares. He is a former Chairman and Member of the Board of Directors of the Mortgage Bankers Association of America, former President of the Mortgage Bankers Association of Alabama, a Certified Public Accountant (inactive), and a Certified Mortgage Banker (Master Certificate).

In August, HUD announced its intention to appoint a Federal Financial Monitor in response to reports of financial mismanagement and corruption in Puerto Rico. Pending the arrival of Couch, Olga Castellón served as the Acting Federal Financial Monitor on all matters relating to overseeing HUD’s Community Development Block Grants-Disaster Recovery efforts in Puerto Rico. She was detailed to this position from the Executive Office for U.S Attorneys (EOUSA) in October.

The Federal Financial Monitor will have extensive legal, accounting, construction management and audit oversight experience and be tasked with ensuring the efficient, effective, and accountable use of funds by:

  • Leading a special post-disaster team in San Juan, Puerto Rico;
  • Oversight of all Puerto Rico disaster recovery funds previously awarded and to be awarded in the future by HUD;
  • Taking immediate action to prevent, detect and stop any waste, fraud, and abuse;
  • Implementing real-time monitoring to federal flow-of-funds and financial controls; and
  • Ensuring taxpayer dollars designated for recovery help people in need and are not wasted through corruption or mismanagement.

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