D.C. storm warn­ing means brav­ing the fi­nan­cial head­winds

The Washington Times Daily - - METRO - DEB­O­RAH SIM­MONS ● Deb­o­rah Sim­mons can be con­tacted at dsim­mons@wash­ing­ton­times.com.

The 2017 At­lantic hur­ri­cane sea­son is a per­fect teach­ing tool for the D.C. gov­ern­ment, par­tic­u­larly since the string of storms pounded the theme that all lives mat­ter and that it is im­por­tant to keep track of your as­sets. Mother Na­ture con­stantly re­minds us that it ain’t over ’til it’s over.

And now, an­other warn­ing: If Hur­ri­cane Har­vey or Hur­ri­cane Irma had struck the na­tion’s cap­i­tal the way they struck Texas and Florida, the city would be un­able to ac­cu­rately cal­cu­late the dam­age to gov­ern­ment as­sets.

That con­clu­sion is based on a thor­ough au­dit of the Depart­ment of Gen­eral Ser­vices (DGS) by the D.C. Of­fice of the In­spec­tor Gen­eral, which slams the Bowser ad­min­is­tra­tion on sev­eral fronts.

Sim­i­lar to its bet­ter-known fed­eral coun­ter­part, the Gen­eral Ser­vices Ad­min­is­tra­tion, the city’s 6-year-old DGS is re­spon­si­ble for man­ag­ing and main­tain­ing the city’s real prop­erty port­fo­lio and the costs of D.C.-owned, -con­trolled and -leased real es­tate and spa­ces.

The most un­set­tling news is that DGS data­bases fell short of 1,540 D.C.-owned prop­er­ties listed in the Of­fice of Tax and Rev­enue records. In ad­di­tion, DGS failed to list and iden­tify some prop­er­ties as jointly owned by the D.C. and fed­eral gov­ern­ments.

Other sub­stan­tial DGS prob­lems in­cluded:

● fail­ure to the fa­cil­i­ties’ con­di­tion as­sess­ments, “which shall con­tain a pro­posed or ac­tual an­nual bud­get for main­te­nance and de­ferred main­te­nance, and a de­tailed de­scrip­tion and es­ti­mate of any needed re­pairs”;

● fail­ure to de­scribe each real prop­erty as­set;

● fail­ure to list prop­er­ties’ ad­dresses and square and lot num­ber;

● and fail­ure to cite the cur­rent and prospec­tive use of prop­er­ties.

The au­dit was con­ducted be­tween June 2016 and July 2017, and a draft was sent to top city of­fi­cials in July, com­plete with rec­om­men­da­tions.

But while some of the rec­om­men­da­tions were im­ple­mented, the fi­nal re­port re­leased in Au­gust pointed out po­lit­i­cal and bu­reau­cratic sna­fus. “DGS has yet to es­tab­lish poli­cies and pro­ce­dures for main­tain­ing its real prop­erty as­set in­ven­tory, col­lect­ing the nec­es­sary data, and cre­at­ing the nec­es­sary data fields in its data­base to record and up­date the in­ven­tory.”

It also laid out the per­ti­nent dol­larsand-cents an­gle: “A com­plete and ac­cu­rate in­ven­tory is nec­es­sary for DGS to make de­ci­sions on whether to lease space from a third party or use Distric­towned space to meet agency needs and track leases and ten­ants in Distric­towned build­ings. “For FY 2018 DGS has bud­geted $177.7 mil­lion, which is an in­crease of $14.4 mil­lion over the FY 2017 bud­get, to rent non-District build­ings. Hav­ing an ac­cu­rate and com­plete in­ven­tory of District-owned build­ings would bet­ter in­form DGS of­fi­cials and could sub­stan­tially re­duce the amount of money the District pays in rent, re­sult­ing in bet­ter use of the District’s real prop­erty.”

If D.C. of­fi­cials do not know what the city has, they can’t hon­estly jus­tify how money is spent or how build­ing sites are cho­sen to tax­pay­ers. And whether Mayor Bowser and City Ad­min­is­tra­tor Rashad Young want to ad­mit it, those are the chief rea­sons the mayor’s home­less re­lo­ca­tion plan stum­bled out of the gate a year ago.

A tell-tale sign is that Christo­pher Weaver, who ran DGS, quit shortly af­ter the au­dit be­gan a lit­tle over a year ago, but the in­ter­nal prob­lems at DGS have per­sisted.

So here’s the thing: Gov­er­nors do the same thing when bliz­zards bear down as when hur­ri­canes go wet and wild. They seek fed­eral funds. So the District’s “gover­nor” and “leg­is­la­ture” bet­ter get DGS’ house in or­der if they want Un­cle Sam to lend a hand.

So here’s the rub: Of­fi­cials could at least pre­tend to prove them­selves fis­cally pru­dent by do­ing two things.

1) Hold coun­cil over­sight hear­ings as the books close on this fis­cal year.

2) Don’t blow $667,000 on food and lodg­ing for city work­ers dur­ing a snow­storm, as was done in 2016 and could not be re­couped from fed­eral funds. Spend­ing $19,000-plus at Mc­Don­ald’s? Re­ally?

Pre­pared­ness doesn’t merely ap­ply to city of­fi­cials telling res­i­dents what to do ahead of a storm. It also ap­plies to elected of­fi­cials who brag about con­trol­ling tax­payer purse strings.

When the coun­cil re­turns to work next week, law­mak­ers must make sure DGS over­sight is on the cal­en­dar.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.