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Natwar Gandhi’s fiscal stewardship

As the Washington City Paper put it, that was quite a “hatchet”that Colbert I. King took to D.C. Chief Financial Officer Natwar Gandhi with his Oct. 20 op-ed column, “Who saved the District from bankruptcy?”. According to Mr. King, the “fiscal stewards” of the District are the politicians who “pass balanced budgets” while the CFO “spends . . . time tending to his own esteem.” Thus, we are advised to look at the “real tale.” But, unlike Mr. King, I have worked directly with the CFO on budget-balancing.

By law, the CFO sets — and enforces — the dollar number for a balanced budget in the District. Do elected officials deserve credit? You bet. Time and again, Mr. Gandhi would remind staff that we had the easy job of setting the bottom line; the “difficult decisions of which taxes and where to spend are made by the elected leaders.” Mr. Gandhi is one who sees elected politicians as engaged in an honorable profession. He believes in and acts on that premise.

Finally, regarding management problems such as those in the D.C. tax office, one can count on two things happening in the world of revenue administration: Something will go wrong, and then it will get fixed. There isn’t a finance official in the country who doesn’t understand and live with that reality. And, if one looks at Mr. Gandhi’s fiscal management of the District, which spans more than a decade, one would be hard-pressed to find a better story.

Yes, take a look at the “real tale.”

Robert D. Ebel, Washington

The writer was D.C. deputy chief financial officer from 2006 to 2009.

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