The major factor contributing to any inefficiency at the D.C. Commission on the Arts and Humanities is the bulkiness of the slides, tapes, portfolios and other items that accompany grant applications, said Larry Neal, executive director of the commission, at a congressional hearing yesterday.
Neal had been asked by Rep. Carl Pursell (R-Mich.) about charges of inefficient bookkeeping that were reported in articles in The Washington Post Sunday.
"There is no inefficiency in bookkeeping," he replied. "Where there is inefficiency is that the grant applications are bulky." As for "any information on the books or the records," said Neal, "you can find it just like that." and he snapped his fingers to illustrate.
Neal was testifying before the District of Columbia Subcommittee of the House Appropriations Committee on the commission's budget request for fiscal year 1980.
Pursell asked all of the questions. Only one other member of the subcommittee, Eldon Rudd (R-Ariz.), was present. The commission was the sixth of seven city institutions represented before the subcommittee yesterday afternoon.
Neal's opening statement concentrated on the problem of local arts groups folding and of the city's inability to employ artists trained here.
He was then asked by Pursell how the commission and the Kennedy Center got along.
"The Kennedy Center should attempt to involve local groups," who "complain to us about the Kennedy Center," said Neal.
"What if you were funded through their [the Kennedy Center] budget?" asked Pursell during the exchange.
Not a good idea, replied Neal. The commission is a state arts agency and wants to retain its independence, he said.
Neal moved on to the issue of conflict of interest. Articles in Sunday's Washington Post cited 12 cases in which commission officials approved grants to themselves or to organizations with which they are affiliated.
The situation "has to be monitored carefully," said Neal, "and I recommended stricter guidelines" than those adopted by the commission. He mentioned a plan in which commission panels of nine members would include three active artists, three academics or others who are interested in the arts but not personally involved, and three arts patrons.
"A historical onus hangs over the commission," said Neal, expanding on his remarks about the efficiency of his commission. Because of its past history, there is an expectancy of inefficiency, he said, "and the press plays that out."
Neal said that his office procedure "compares favorably with any agency in the city government."
The commission is requesting a repeat of last year's city appropriation of $163,100 as part of a total budget of $612,800. Mayor Marion Barry has asked that an additional $243,000 be added to the commission's 1980 budget, which was prepared by the administration of his predecessor, Walter Washington. But this proposal has not yet been approved by the city council.