- The Washington Times - Monday, October 9, 2000


As Congress completes its annual adventure in appropriations, one of the bills it will send to President Clinton will be for funding the District of Columbia. Although the District's moderate mismanagement of money of late is an improvement on the District's historically awful mismanagement, the District's new financial managers seem to mean business about minding the bottom line.
It is likely that the bill will be one of the last items debated before the fall recess, since it is currently waiting for review by a House and Senate conference committee. Once the changes have been approved, the bill will be sent to President Clinton.
Unfortunately, the White House Office of Management and Budget has made many objections to the House version of the bill, including the bill's prohibition of funds for domestic partnerships and its increase in funding for charter schools.
Beyond the fact that such objections (and several others the White House has made) could be taken straight from the "Little Red Book of Liberal Appropriations," many provisions in the bill could have a positive impact on the lives of the District's citizens.
One of its key provisions specifically prohibits the Public Benefit Corporation (PBC) from receiving any form of funding in addition to its $45.3 million dollar allocation for FY 2001. The PBC, a quasi-independent agency that manages eight primary care clinics, a school nurse program and D.C. General Hospital, is one of the sorest spots on the District's long and all-too distinguished resume of disappearing dollars. According to Natwar M. Gandhi, the newly appointed chief financial officer of the District, the PBC has exceeded its annual appropriation almost every year this past decade; he estimated that PBC would have a deficit of $67.3 million in FY 2000.
While testifying before the D.C. Committee on Human Services, Mr. Gandhi made it clear that he plans to honor the spending limits imposed by the appropriations bill, even if it necessitates the making of difficult choices about the PBC and/or the services it controls. He affirmed his commitment to putting the District's financial house in order during a recent meeting at The Washington Times, stating that he would do everything in his power to ensure that the PBC's books, and those of the District, are completed in a timely manner and the expected financial reports turned in on time.
In the twilight of this appropriations season, the District should be given the opportunity to see if Mr. Gandhi's bright light of accountability will cause the shadows of past fiscal mismanagement to dissipate.

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