D.C. tax office was warned more than once about database security

The District was warned more than once that employees could alter records used to calculate tax bills and refunds, leaving the system vulnerable to manipulation.

Just as internal auditors this year found flaws in the database used to calculate D.C. property tax assessments, external auditors found problems of a similar nature in another database used to process bills and refunds.

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For years, internal auditors have warned D.C. Chief Financial Officer Natwar M. Gandhi about weak controls and lax oversight in the city’s tax office. The reports have not been made public. The Washington Post obtained most of the reports through a public records request. Two were obtained independently.
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For years, internal auditors have warned D.C. Chief Financial Officer Natwar M. Gandhi about weak controls and lax oversight in the city’s tax office. The reports have not been made public. The Washington Post obtained most of the reports through a public records request. Two were obtained independently.

Problems lingered at D.C. tax office

Problems lingered at D.C. tax office

Since embezzlement scandal in 2007, audits said the office was still vulnerable to errors and fraud.

D.C. Council members question agency’s vetting procedures

D.C. Council members question agency’s vetting procedures

D.C. Council members express concerns about the vetting of the District’s chief tax appraiser. A hearing is scheduled for Oct. 10 to discuss tax office operations.

D.C.’s chief tax appraiser embroiled in controversy

D.C.’s chief tax appraiser embroiled in controversy

Tony L. George faced complaints about bias and tax reductions in his former job in Georgia.

D.C. CFO’s office urged to conduct more thorough background checks

D.C. CFO’s office urged to conduct more thorough background checks

Natwar Gandhi’s office has been urged to conduct more thorough background checks, especially those who handle money.

Councilman questions tax database controls

Councilman questions tax database controls

David A. Catania has sent a letter to the District’s chief financial officer seeking a response to an internal audit that questioned oversight of the city’s property appraisal database.

Audit: Some D.C. tax officials could alter property data without detection

Audit: Some D.C. tax officials could alter property data without detection

An audit finds a few managers could alter the assessed property values, leaving the city vulnerable to “erroneous or inappropriate transactions.”

D.C. tax deals prompt anger, investigations

D.C. tax deals prompt anger, investigations

District officials have shaved $2.6 billion off the taxable value of commercial properties, angering city appraisers and prompting an investigation, The Washington Post found.

The District’s Office of Tax and Revenue did not restrict the access of employees who were able to make “improper adjustments” in the Integrated Tax System (ITS), the billing and refund collection system, according to a Jan. 25 report by the private firm KPMG.

(Related: Problems lingered at D.C. tax office for years after 2007 scandal, audit show )

That finding was echoed in a March internal audit that found that a handful of tax office managers could adjust property value assessments without detection in the database that calculates property tax assessments, known as the computer-assisted mass appraisal system. The Office of the Chief Financial Officer, which oversees the tax office, disputed some of the findings.

The internal audit is set to be the subject of a D.C. Council committee oversight hearing Wednesday on tax office issues.

The external KPMG audit found several “deficiencies” as part of an annual review of the city’s financial statements by the Office of the Inspector General, which was submitted in May to Mayor Vincent C. Gray, Chief Financial Officer Natwar M. Gandhi and other city officials. It was also made public on the inspector general’s Web site.

A spokeswoman for the tax office did not respond to a request for comment about the report. The inspector general’s office did not return calls seeking comment.

In its response contained in the KPMG report, the tax office agreed with the findings, adding that it had established controls in 2009 and 2011 to address the issue. Changes had been made so that only certain employees would have “the systemic ability to adjust taxpayer accounts,” the tax office said.

The KPMG report found that tax office auditors had unauthorized access to make changes to assessments.

The report said there was no “segregation of duties” between a person who prepares a change to an audit assessment and one who puts the information into the ITS. “As a result,” it said, “audit assessment changes may be erroneously input into the ITS system without proper review and approval.”

 
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