HUD's CHCO investigated for alleged hiring abuses

Thursday - 8/25/2011, 4:43pm EDT

By Jason Miller
Executive Editor
Federal News Radio

The Department of Housing and Urban Development has been a model in government when it comes to reforming its hiring process.

But now the person running that transformation, HUD chief human capital officer Janie Payne, is under investigation by the agency's inspector general.

Payne and a HUD spokesman confirm the Inspector General is investigating allegations of illegal hiring practices. The IG is looking at whether Payne exerted her influence so her daughter could be hired at HUD.

"We see the investigation as a way of reassuring everyone of the integrity of our HR system," the HUD spokesman said in an interview with Federal News Radio. "If anything is found to be out of order, we are pretty sure we have the precise roadmap to get back on track. I don't know where we are yet. We haven't received anything back from the IG. We are anxiously awaiting that because we are working on transformation."

Payne has been on paid administrative leave for about a month during the investigation-which is common practice during an investigation by the IG.

"Having done this for over 35 years in multiple federal agencies and in the private sector I have a stellar reputation," Payne said in an interview with Federal News Radio. "I am anxious for this to be resolved so that my name can be cleared. That's very important to me."

Payne said her daughter was hired at HUD, but she had nothing to do with it and her daughter works for another organization in the agency.

One HUD source, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they didn't get approval to speak on this matter, said it's not uncommon throughout the government for relatives to work for the same agency.

The HUD spokesman said the IG received a call on its hotline to report fraud, waste or abuse and at the same time the agency's deputy secretary had started looking into the allegations.

"These are rumors you can't afford to take a pass on," the spokesman said. "When a rumor about a system that is so critical as HR, the deputy secretary couldn't afford to take a pass on it and as a result made the decision to refer the allegations to the IG."

Payne, who also is the co-chairwoman of the CHCO Council's performance management task force, said she's not sure where the allegations are coming from.

"In my office, I've taken transformation seriously," she said. "I've done a restructuring, made changes and am holding people accountable in ways that haven't been done before. I guess there are probably some disgruntled people in my organization. It could have very well come from that and things that people were unhappy about. I've been pushing some radical changes in my organization."

Payne said she looks forward to having her name cleared and going back to HUD to continue transforming the agency's hiring process.

"I'm very committed to the transformation and the secretary's vision for HUD and I think that I've laid the foundation for extraordinary change in the organization and the agency is beginning to see the results from that," Payne said. "I'm just anxious to move forward with great foundation and great group of people to accomplish agency objectives."

Over the last year, HUD reduced its time to hire from more than 140 days to 76 days as of December 2010.

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