The House Appropriations Committee, in one of the most critical reports in memory on District of Columbia financial operations, suggested yesterday that city officials should face criminal penalties if they continue to overspend their budgets.
The committee also denounced Mayor Marion Barry for failing to hire the 200 more police officers it provided funds for last year, declaring it was "concerned with the complete disregard shown by District officials at the highest levels . . . to the directives" of Congress.
Only after a recent confrontation over a normally routine fund transfer did Barry back down and agree in the near future to hire enough uniformed officers to maintain the 3,880-member uniformed force that Congress demanded a year ago. Barry had contended that under home rule, with a budget crisis, the police department had to take its share of overall spending cutbacks.
The Appropriations Committee report yesterday -- drafted by its subcommittee on the District of Columbia budget -- was peppered with more criticisms of the city than any such document in recent history, ranging from continuing problems with water bills to difficulties in obtaining adequate building inspections.
In its sharpest recommendation, the committee declared that city officials who overspend or agree to overspend their congressionally approved budgets should "be held subject to the penalties and liabilities set forth in . . . the Antideficiency Act," passed by Congress in 1906 barring deficit spending by federal or D.C. agencies.
The law provides for fines of $5,000 and imprisonment for two years. A recent check indicated that nobody ever has been convicted in the law's 75 years of existence.
During hearings earlier this year, the committee's D.C. panel was told of an estimated $22 million in overspending last year by the city's prisons, welfare and transportation departments, by its pension program and by the Superior Court.
Rep. Julian C. Dixon (D-Calif.), the D.C. subcommittee chairman, acknowledged that his panel's report came down with unusual weight on city officials.
"I think there are some legitimate areas of concern we would like to direct the city's attention to," he said. "And, quite candidly, we had the full August congressional recess to review the testimony and prepare the report. The more time you have, the more complete it can be."
Gladys W. Mack, the city's budget director, called the committee statements "a reasonable warning under the circumstances . . . but that is now all behind us" as the city gained greater control of its financial affairs.
The report adopted yesterday will go to the House floor next week, accompanying the bill to authorize the city's proposed budget for the 1982 fiscal year, which starts Oct. 1. The measure authorizes spending nearly $1.9 billion -- almost $1.7 billion for operations and $212 million for construction projects.
While most of the funds will come from local taxation, the budget would be supported in part by a federal payment of $300 million.
Generally, the committee version of the budget follows the proposals made by Barry, although it insists on further beefing up of the police department and refuses to grant $628,000 to pay for operations of the new D.C. Lottery and Games Control Board.