- The Washington Times - Friday, July 13, 2007

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

A Medicaid contract to a “scurrilous” Missouri firm. Money meant for road repairs spent on portable potties and office furniture. Sports equipment left to dry rot in a shuttered school. These are the kinds of serious mistakes that can make taxpayers lose confidence in a mayoral administration — especially a bureaucracy as young as the 6-month-old Fenty administration.

A new audit reveals D.C. officials improperly spent more than $1.5 million on portable potties, furniture and utility expenses from a fund that was supposed to be used for alley, curb and road improvements. Mixing appropriations and digging into one pot of money to pay for other expenses — whether locally or federal appropriated or not — borders on fiscal management. The audit by the D.C. Office of the Inspector General, which was requested by Council member Carol Schwartz, examined the $64 million local-roads 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,” as Jim McElhatton reported July 6.

And there’s more. D.C. got in steep hot water last year for spending more on transporting Medicaid patients ($21 million) than it spent on patients’ actual doctor visits. The overarching problem? Fraud and mismanagement. The culprits? Bad billings, no billings, billings for dead patients. Poor to no oversight. Now we learn (again from Mr. McElhatton, in yesterday’s editions of The Washington Times) that to “fix” that problem, the city is contracting with a St. Louis company that was involved in a fraud investigation. In fact, a spokesman for Missouri Gov. Matt Blunt minced no words, saying the company “bilked the system.”

As for that other problem — sports equipment housed in a school house that has been closed since August 2006. Suffice it to say the athletic director for D.C. Public Schools is Allen Chin.

Mayor Adrian Fenty has launched some important initiatives since taking office six months ago, but he gets no summer break. Obviously, the bureaucracy needs fine-tuning. We’re hopeful the mayor will find the weed whacker that Tony Williams left behind in City Hall.

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