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Saturday, 10 November 2007

Home construction agency faulted for careless reporting
 Sloppy record keeping by the state agency that investigates complaints about home construction prevented state auditors from measuring key performance criteria, a report released Thursday said. The Texas Residential Construction Commission had inaccurate or incomplete data on four of seven performance measures, including the number of disputes between homeowners and builders it closed and the length of time it took to resolve disputes, auditors found. The report also said the commission underreported telephone calls to its toll-free help lines and overcounted the number of Texans receiving in-person assistance. Related Report: Texas Comptroller Condemns TRCC Builder Protection Agency-Recomends to blast TRCC be blasted off bureaucratic books

Home construction agency faulted for careless reporting
11/08/2007J
anet Elliott
Express-News

AUSTIN — Sloppy record keeping by the state agency that investigates complaints about home construction prevented state auditors from measuring key performance criteria, a report released Thursday said.

The Texas Residential Construction Commission had inaccurate or incomplete data on four of seven performance measures, including the number of disputes between homeowners and builders it closed and the length of time it took to resolve disputes, auditors found.

The report also said the commission underreported telephone calls to its toll-free help lines and overcounted the number of Texans receiving in-person assistance.

For example, the audit said the commission reported it provided assistance to 4,000 Texans at one trade show event.

"This number, however, was based on the event's entire gate count (reported by the event's coordinators) rather than on an estimation of the actual number of people the commission assisted or to whom it provided information during the event," the audit said.

The commission did accurately report the number of home registrations issued and the number of new builder and remodeler registrations issued.

The commission was created in 2003 with the support of homebuilders who wanted a system to resolve disputes before homeowners could go to court.

Duane Waddill, executive director of the commission, said with limited staff to get the agency up and running, the focus was on registering builders and handling complaints rather than writing procedures.

"Yes, we need to improve in our reporting. But our core mission is to help people get problems with their homes resolved and I think we do that," Waddill said.

But with a board made up almost entirely of builders or those with ties to the construction and property industries, critics say the commission has failed to hold builders accountable.

Concern about its operations led lawmakers to pass reforms this year. The new law increases penalties and authorizes the commission to issue orders to enforce compliance.

The commission also must begin publishing information about each complaint that resulted in disciplinary action and requires the governor to appoint public members with experience representing consumer or homeowner interests.

The agency also received more money to boost staff from 32 to 80. Waddill said the staff will work to reduce the time to process inspections when complaints are received from 129 days to 100 days.

"Cases are coming in at a much larger rate than they did a year ago," he said.

Alex Winslow, executive director of the consumer group Texas Watch, said in a news release that the commission has "been under a cloud" since its inception. He plans to push for more changes when the agency undergoes sunset review next year.

"The TRCC needs to clean up its act," he said.

Waddill said the board will discuss the audit at its December meeting. He expects action to improve documentation and the way certain measures are calculated.

 


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