- The Washington Times - Sunday, February 20, 2005

D.C. agencies cannot agree on how much revenue the parking enforcement program has generated because they don’t know how to query the contractor running the program, an agency director said.

“The question is when we ask, what are we asking for?” said Anne Witt, the director of the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV).

The Washington Times reported Feb. 11 that the District had collected $53 million of the $99 million in parking fines it had assessed in fiscal 2004, according to figures provided by the Department of Public Works, whose ticket writers issue the majority of city parking tickets.

But Miss Witt, whose agency is responsible for collecting the ticket revenue, said she had never seen the $99 million figure.

She said that according to the DMV’s numbers, the District issued $104 million worth of tickets in fiscal 2004 and collected $83 million.

The information for reports on parking revenue is provided by the contractor, Dallas-based Affiliated Computer Services (ACS), which processes parking tickets for the District.

For each query, an ACS programmer has to write a code that distinguishes which of the more than 20 agencies wrote the ticket. The code also has to distinguish whether the ticket is for a moving violation, red-light camera or speed-camera ticket.

Miss Witt said the bottom line is that different city agencies that think they are asking for the same information are getting different answers.

“I am sure the $99 million number is correct for some definition of something I am not able to tell you,” she said. “We’re really working to try to get some consistent reports.”

Miss Witt said there is no reason to think that the city has lost track of how much money it is due from the contractor.

“Not yet,” she said. “We’ll see if we get there.”

She said ACS could not be blamed for government agencies’ inconsistent queries, but that there was room for improvement from the contractor.

“I am certainly a proponent of making this a more user-friendly relational database,” Miss Witt said.

In December, the D.C. Council unanimously approved an $8.6 million contract extension with ACS for ticket processing and collection services at the request of Mayor Anthony A. Williams.

The contract had expired in May 2004, but the D.C. Office of Contracting and Procurement continued paying ACS through a series of short-term contracts. The “letter contracts” totaled more than $4 million. Under city law, contracts that exceed $1 million require council approval.

However, by the time the council approved the ACS deal, the city had paid the contractor more than $4 million.

The ACS deal was one of about a dozen such contracts in the past year that exceeded $1 million but never received council approval until months after the city had spent the money, according to contracting records.

In July 2002, the D.C. Council voted to exempt itself from the city’s parking regulations. The measure, coming after a year in which traffic-enforcement officers had cracked down on illegally parked cars of council members, was sponsored by council member Carol Schwartz and supported by council members Kevin P. Chavous, Jack Evans, Sandy Allen, Adrian M. Fenty, David A. Catania, Harold Brazil, Vincent B. Orange Sr., Linda W. Cropp and Jim Graham. Phil Mendelson, Kathy Patterson and Sharon Ambrose voted no.

The exemption, approved but criticized at the time by Mr. Williams, extended to council members the same parking privileges enjoyed by members of Congress, including the freedom to park in bus zones, in restricted spaces near intersections, at building entrances and on restricted residential streets. It also freed council members from having to put money in parking meters. Mr. Brazil, Mr. Chavous and Mrs. Allen lost re-election bids last year.

Jim McElhatton contributed to this report.

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