D.C. Mayor Marion Barry yesterday ordered tighter financial and management controls in the city's Department of Employment Services in the wake of an investigation showing that two of the agency's officials used city funds to buy household goods for their own use.
The mayor said that the new controls would "provide increased monitoring and additional cross-checking for financial transactions" made by the District's job-training and placement agency.
Previously, the department's vouchers were audited by the agency's financial management support staff. But under the revised system, James George, the agency's deputy director for finance and administration, will assume direct control of the auditing process, a city spokeswoman said.
In addition, George will manage the "cross-matching" of daily spending transactions against payment vouchers "to assure that each transaction is properly authorized," the city government said in a prepared statement.
Curtis McClinton Jr., the District's deputy mayor for economic development who oversees the agency, said that other staff members would be trained to provide "additional checks and balances for record-keeping and accountability.
"DOES staff will be held strictly accountable," McClinton said. "We have put everyone on notice that improprieties will not be tolerated."
Crystal Willis and Dwayne Moore, the two agency officials whom Barry previously said have admitted using city funds for the household purchases, have both been fired as a result of the city's investigation. Their cases have been turned over to the U.S. Attorney's Office for possible prosecution.
In the same probe, federal investigators already have charged Clarence B. Wade Jr., a private contractor engaged by the department to run a job-training program for high school students, with felony theft in connection with the purchase of more than $1,000 worth of household goods with city funds. Wade is accused of using the household items to help furnish an apartment he once shared with Nina Turner, the sister of Matthew F. Shannon, the director of the Employment Services agency.
The city said it will implement strict, but unspecified, controls over the use of "open" purchase orders, which are used by the department to buy frequently ordered items. Such a city account was maintained at the Maurice Electrical Supply Co., a wholesaler where the allegedly illegal personal purchases were made.
The mayor, saying that Shannon this summer alerted him to possible financial irregularities in the department, ordered D.C. Inspector General Joyce Blalock to conduct an investigation of the agency's operations.
Barry's announcement of the tighter controls left unclear whether her probe is continuing. Blalock declined comment.
McClinton said the new controls are aimed at preventing "sole access to financial data and instruments by one person or even one unit."
In addition to giving George new responsibility for Employment Services' auditing process, the city said it would transfer final spending authority for the agency's so-called administrative account to the D.C. controller. The account is used to purchase products for the city's unemployment insurance program when federal unemployment insurance funds are depleted.
The city's current controller is Melvin Jones, but he is slated to become director of the Department of Finance and Revenue on Monday. Another current city official, Anthony Calhoun, will be the new controller.