Catania wants more transparency in D.C. finance audits

Catania wants to go above and beyond the CFO’s promises of transparency. (Bill O’Leary/TWP)

D.C. Council member David A. Catania (I-At-large) is wasting no time addressing issues with internal city financial audits raised in recent Washington Post stories and a Wednesday council hearing. He wants the council to vote on legislation next Tuesday to ensure legislators see all of the audits done by the Office of the Chief Financial Officer.

The emergency bill, according to a notice circulated to council staff Thursday, “will ensure that all audit reports conducted within [OCFO] are circulated to the Council of the District of Columbia in a timely manner.”┬áCatania spokesman Brendan Williams-Kief said the legislation has not yet been fully drafted, but it would require Chief Financial Officer Natwar M. Gandhi to post full versions of completed audits on the Internet, give the council a quarterly status update on audits in progress and provide an annual audit plan, much as the D.C. Auditor and Inspector General already do.

Responding to concerns that some audits critical of tax office operations had been left in “draft” and thus had gone uncirculated outside OCFO’s inner sanctum, Gandhi said Wednesday he would post the titles and executive summaries of completed audits to an agency Web site. ┬áHe said that would balance the need for transparency with the concern that sharing audits could give potential wrongdoers a road map to do wrong.

But Catania pooh-poohed those concerns, noting that auditing bodies in the local and federal governments regularly circulate full audits and can partially redact legitimately sensitive materials.

OCFO spokesman David Umansky said the office does not have a position on Catania’s proposal but said Gandhi is ready to share more information with the council. “We committed to inform them in a timely matter about all the reports and to give them a full version of whatever they want,” he said, adding that the agency already does an annual audit plan. “If the council wants to know what’s in the audit plan, we’ll certainly show it to them.”

Emergency bills like Catania’s require nine of 12 members to pass and are effective only for 90 days. A permanent version of the bill would be subject to a committee referral and probable hearing, likely through the finance and revenue panel.

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