Natwar Gandhi wanted to control D.C. audits to protect reputation, ex-employee says


A former internal-affairs chief for D.C. official said his boss tried to control reports’ content and release because he was worried about his image. (Linda Davidson/The Washington Post)
November 27, 2012

A former internal-affairs chief for D.C. Chief Financial Officer Natwar M. Gandhi testified this year that Gandhi tried to control the content and release of audits because he feared that they would “get out to the press and make him look bad,” according to a deposition recently obtained by The Washington Post.

The account by the former official, Robert Andary, echoes the position of his successor in the job, William J. DiVello, who abruptly resigned last month after he said Gandhi’s senior managers had refused to make public an updated version of an audit critical of the city’s tax office.

In testimony before the D.C. Council in October, Gandhi disputed DiVello’s statements, saying no audits were intentionally kept from the public.

During the February deposition, Andary said auditors at the agency lacked independence. “Mr. Gandhi inserted himself into the process,” Andary said. “He wanted to tell me how the report should be issued and whether the report should be issued and whether anything should be written down as a result of the audit, and I would not concede to that.”

Agency spokesman David Umansky defended Gandhi on Tuesday, noting that Andary did not testify that his reports were changed, that he was prevented from releasing his findings or that he was ordered to limit the scope of an investigation.

Read Robert Andary’s February deposition, in which he says auditors lacked independence.

“Mr. Andary testified to a philosophical difference of opinion with the Chief Financial Officer,” Umansky said in a written statement. “. . . He also testified that the only concession he made was that before he issued a report, he would brief the CFO on the findings.”

Andary, 65, who was the head of Gandhi’s internal-affairs unit from 2008 to 2009, declined to comment.

Andary’s account mirrors that of DiVello, whose resignation and subsequent account of the auditing process helped prompt council members to demand the immediate release of audits. DiVello told council members at the hearing in October that he faced ongoing pressure by Gandhi’s aides to “quarantine” audits by leaving them in draft form. Agency officials have said that drafts are exempt from disclosure under public records law.

During the February deposition, taken as part of a wrongful-termination lawsuit filed by Gandhi’s former procurement director, an attorney for the plaintiff questioned Andary about how the internal-affairs office operated under Gandhi.

“Mr. Gandhi, you’re saying, had a problem with the memorialization of certain information related to audits?”

“Yes,” Andary responded.

“What’s the nature of the problem?”

“He was worried it would get out to the press and make him look bad, I think. I believe that’s his problem,” Andary said.

Andary said the issue first came up when he discussed with Gandhi a management alert produced by his staff.

The attorney asked: “How did it play out?”

“We didn’t resolve it,” Andary responded.

“What is it that you wanted, and what is it that he wanted?”

“I wanted to issue my own audit reports,” Andary said. “He wanted to tell me what I could write and what I can’t.”

Andary’s deposition was taken in connection with the whistleblower case of Eric Payne, Gandhi’s former procurement director, who has filed a wrongful-termination suit against the city. Much of the deposition provided to The Post in response to a public records request was redacted by city lawyers, who cited a protective order issued by the court.

During his deposition, Andary said he resigned in late 2009 at Gandhi’s request. Andary, a former assistant U.S. attorney and assistant inspector general for investigations in the District, said that Gandhi offered no reason for the resignation request, saying only that the internal-affairs office would be reorganized.

“It was my opinion that it was based on the fact that we could not agree or he wasn’t satisfied with my independence,” Andary said.

Andary was replaced by DiVello, a former assistant inspector general for the District, in March 2010.

In October, the Securities and Exchange Commission launched an inquiry into the agency’s handling of audits. A city official at the time said a failure to disclose critical information to bond investors could have been a violation. Also in October, D.C. Council members unanimously passed legislation to require Gandhi to post completed audits online.

Nikita Stewart and Jennifer Jenkins contributed to this report.

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