D.C. City Council Chairman and mayoral hopeful Sterling Tucker said yesterday that the city's $12 million-a-year job training and placement program is being "misused andunderutilized," and that administration of the federally funded program has grown worse during the past eight months.
"I am distressed," Tucker wrote in a letter to Mayor Walter E. Washington, "that in spite of problems documented throughout the year in the use of the District's manpowe dollars, the evidence points to diterioration rather than improvement" in the performance of the D.C Department of Manpower, which runs the program.
Tucker said the department was more than two months late in signing fiscal year 1978 contracts with the 14 agencies it hires to do job training for "hard-core" unemployed. The delay meant that an unknown number of city residents were denied full admission and participation in the program during that time, Tucker said.
The program still is falling at least 30 per cent below its own estimates in the number of participants it has placed in jobs, training costs are twice as high per pupil last year as they were the previous year, and the program is "unresponsive" to the employment and economic needs of women, Tucker said.
Moreover, he asserted, the department has not developed satisfactory operating procedures, has no way of evaluating how well it is fulfilling its own self-described mission and may have been improperly given by Mayor Washington authority over a $36 million-a-year public service employment program earlier this year.
A spokesman for the mayor has no immediate comment on the seven-page Tucker letter, which called on Washington to take action to improve conditions in the program funded through Title I of the federal Comprehensive Employment and Training Act (CETA).
The letter contained the latest - and in some respects the strongest - criticism by Tucker to date of the program's operations. Tucker has held public hearings on city manpower operations and met regularly with the agencies hired by the city to perform the training and placement activities.
Mayor Washington, who is considering running for re-election next year, has made the need for more programs to combat unemployment in the city a major theme in some of his public appearances over the past few months. Tucker, who also is expected to run for mayor in 1978, appeared in part yesterday to be attempting to politically undercut that approach by the mayor by accusing Washington's administration of waste and inefficiency in the job-training field.
"It [the letter] raises a lot of questions about the ability of the government to put to good use the very scarce and very needed dollars that are and will be coming in to meet the major problem of the city," said Marianne Freeman, a staff aide to Tucker.
Among the specific problems found. Tucker's aides said yesterday were unnecessary duplicate testing of program applicants and long periods between the time persons apply for the program and are referred to one of 14 participating agencies.
Researchers also found that only about one of every four persons trained through the program was placed in a job that was in any way related to the training received.
In April, it was disclosed that financial records of 12 of the 14 programs were so incomplete that they could not be audited. Tucker staffers said yesterday that they still have not been told whether any audits of those records have been completed.