Outside consultants have started auditing the Prince George's County Department of Housing and Community Development, an agency that in recent years has been accused of mismanagement. "We're hoping to identify some of the problems and pitfalls," said County Auditor David H. Van Dyke, who attended the first meeting held by the Virginia Tech Center for Housing Research, which was hired to do the audit.

He said the county expects a report with recommendations from the consultants by May. The Prince George's County Council initiated the outside review of the agency last year, awarding the Virginia Tech consultants a $64,802 contract.

The department has had a history of problems, including "not meeting timeliness standards," Van Dyke said. Just last year, the county had to return $2 million in federal dollars to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development for not spending it in the five-year timeframe mandated.

And the department was at the center of

the recent arrest of former County Executive Jack Johnson and his wife, District 6 County Councilwoman Leslie Johnson. That was over an investigation into whether bribes were taken by Jack Johnson from developers seeking funds from the department's HOME Investor Partnerships Program.

Neither Jack Johnson nor Leslie Johnson -- who was not in office at the time of her arrest -- have been indicted on the charges, though that could change as they face a preliminary hearing on Feb. 16. A spokeswoman with the U.S. attorney's office declined to comment.

Ted Koebel, co-director of the Center for Housing Research at Virginia Tech, would say only that the audit is

"just getting started," and declined to elaborate. "We're not in any position to report anything," he said.

The review will include interviewing employees and key stakeholders in the department, as well as municipalities and nonprofits receiving community development block grant funding. Consultants also will examine the department's existing structure and programs.

"This is really a management study," Koebel said. "The term 'audit' can be very misleading in this type of context."