For new CFO Jeff DeWitt, customer service is job one


(D.C. Office of the Chief Financial Officer)

Jeffrey S. DeWitt has now had a solid seven months as the District’s chief financial officer — enough time to settle in, sort through a messy budget, get sued by the D.C. Council and otherwise kick the tires of the city’s oft-criticized financial apparatus.

On Thursday, DeWitt released his much-anticipated strategic plan for the Office of the Chief Financial Officer, his blueprint to get an agency that has encountered criticism over its fiscal controls, tax-collecting practices and procurement practices into shipshape.

The plan is centered around seven “strategic objectives,” and the first listing will warm the hearts of any city resident or business owner who has spent hours on the phone or typing letters to clear up a tax problem: “Improve Customer Service.”

To that end, DeWitt is pledging to roll out an updated computer system in the Office of Tax and Revenue in the coming three to five years. A modernized telephone system, one that will allow “all customer interactions [to be] recorded and tracked in a single system,” will be rolled out sooner than that. By early next year, all OCFO staff will have undergone a “comprehensive” customer service training program, and DeWitt says he will establish a community outreach program — again, “comprehensive” — that will include an online event calendar. Also by early next year, the OCFO and tax office Web sites will be “more complete, transparent and customer-friendly.”

Besides saving taxpayers from pulling their hair out, the plan’s other strategic objectives are to:

• “Create a Culture of Continuous Improvement”
• “Improve Transparency and Quality of Information”
• “Effectively Manage Risk and Prevent Fraud”
• “Implement Quality Financial Systems”
• “Develop, Attract, and Retain High Quality Employees”
• “Manage a Fair and Equitable System to Fully Collect District Revenues”

Specific projects to turn those goals into reality include creating a long-range capital spending plan beyond the current six-year planning horizon, doing a “best practices” review of the D.C. Lottery, create an online system to secure “clean hands” certifications required to do business with the city, and improving the city’s economic forecasting.

DeWitt says in a letter introducing the plan that those projects “will require significant effort and resources … but will have a significant return in terms of efficiencies, improved customer service, transparency, and improved internal controls.”

Mike DeBonis covers local politics and government for The Washington Post. He also writes a blog and a political analysis column that runs on Fridays.
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Mike DeBonis · August 7