- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 13, 2008

D.C. Mayor Adrian M. Fenty on Tuesday took responsibility for gross mismanagement of the Summer Youth Employment Program that caused the program to go $37 million over budget, saying blame for poor execution of the program “goes all the way to the top.”

“I should have known earlier,” Mr. Fenty said at a news conference where he announced the resignation of D.C. Department of Employment Services Director Summer Spencer. “I should have known more earlier, and more should have been done earlier.”

Mr. Fenty said Miss Spencer will be replaced sometime in September by his chief of staff, Tene Dolphin. He declined to say whether he asked Miss Spencer to step down.

“We have accomplished a lot of great things,” Miss Spencer said in a statement from the mayor’s office. “However, when you have enormous obstacles … you have to start at the top, and the buck stops with me.”

Mr. Fenty also released the findings of an investigation led by CapStat head Kevin Donahue into the program. CapStat is the District’s performance-based accountability program.

The investigation was launched after the program’s first payday in June. The early findings prompted Mr. Fenty to request the additional funding from the District’s emergency contingency fund July 30.

The report, which is being submitted to the D.C. Inspector General, said that $20 million of the additional funds were needed because of “significant mismanagement” that led to errors in the payroll system, mostly involving the accuracy of time and attendance data.

The other $17 million was used to meet a policy decision to cover increased demand.

The report said time and attendance was affected by four major factors: late contract approvals for job providers, late entry of thousands of registrations, the use of a new time and attendance system that was deployed just days before the start of the program, and poor manual time documenting procedures.

Mr. Donahue said the investigation also found more than 200 participants were not D.C. residents, more than 100 did not meet the age requirements - including some workers who were over 50 - and several others were hired at higher than minimum wage without specific contract agreements.

Mr. Donahue said the investigation also found evidence of theft and fraud by people who registered for the program but never worked and still got paid. He said the city has not yet determined how much may have been stolen.

Mr. Fenty and City Administrator Dan Tangherlini placed much of the blame for the problems on the exponential growth of the program since last year and said certain problems were inevitable.

This year, the city registered more than 21,000 youths compared with 12,629 last year. The projected enrollment was 15,000.

A spokesman for Chief Financial Officer Natwar M. Gandhi said the office will allocate money to the program as it is needed to pay workers. Mr. Fenty will have two years to replenish the fund of more than $200 million.

The program drew criticism in June when workers began complaining that they were not getting paid on time or receiving the proper amount while some participants got paid despite never working.

D.C. Council member Marion Barry, Ward 8 Democrat, who began making inquiries into the problems when they surfaced, commended Mr. Fenty for taking responsibility.

“The idea is to make sure this doesn’t happen the same way again,” Mr. Barry said.

Council member Carol Schwartz, at-large Republican, has scheduled a public hearing in September to address the problems with the program.

Calls made to a spokesman for Mrs. Schwartz on Tuesday evening were not returned.

Miss Spencer is the second agency head to step down in a month, following the resignation of former Child and Family Services Administration head Sharlynn E. Bobo on July 16. Miss Bobo resigned after a poor performance by the agency contributed to the deaths this year of at least six D.C. children.

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