Audit finds $1.5 million in D.C. fund misused

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A new government audit has uncovered more than $1.5 million in improper charges out of a special D.C. government fund that is supposed to be used for fixing streets, alleys and curbs.

Officials spent city road money on office furniture, utility expenses, roof replacement and leasing of portable toilets, according to the D.C. Office of the Inspector General audit.

The report detailed how the District handles its more than $64 million Local Roads Construction and Maintenance Fund, which is used to fix city roads that are not eligible for federal funding.

The audit, released this week by Inspector General Charles J. Willoughby, also questioned how the city’s Department of Transportation (DDOT) and the D.C. Office of the Chief Financial Officer kept track of revenues from the special fund.

“There were no written policies and procedures, insufficient separation of duties over billings and receipts, and no reconciliation of billings to receipts and accounts receivable,” auditors wrote.

In addition, auditors found no receipts list or check log had been prepared. The situation increases the risk that officials could misstate revenue through intentional or unintentional errors, according to the report.

D.C. transportation spokesman Erik Linden said the department takes the audit findings “very seriously” and that officials have responded to the report in writing.

In the written response, Mohamed Mohamed, acting chief financial officer for government services, said officials have changed their budget process to “avoid a repeat of the payment difficulties encountered in 2006.”

Mr. Mohamed also noted that a new funds manager has been appointed to oversee the program’s financial management.

The report does not accuse any officials of fraud or abuse, but says several of the expenditures from the city’s local roads fund should have come from other parts of the budget.

For example, auditors surveyed more than $14 million in expenses for fiscal years 2005 and 2006, finding that approximately $1.5 million should have been charged to the city’s federal Highway Trust Fund.

In addition, auditors questioned why $161,965 in local road money had been spent on the settlement of a lawsuit, lease and maintenance of an office trailer, personnel services, repair of a snow managers’ station and other non-road-related expenditures.

D.C. Council member Carol Schwartz, at-large Republican, requested the audit.

“While not pleased with some of the findings, I am gratified that DDOT has responded positively to the recommendations,” Mrs. Schwartz said yesterday. “I want to make sure there’s integrity to the process and that’s why I requested the audit.”

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