The Nov. 27 front-page story "District Dodges Spending Laws; Companies Snare Contracts With Connections, Not Competition" would have readers believe that the rules are bent repeatedly in D.C. government. This is false.
For seven months the D.C. Office of the Chief Financial Officer (OCFO) cooperated in The Post's review of city spending in recent years. It turned over and reviewed procurement documents, contracts, vouchers and related information dating back more than six years to ensure that The Post would repre- sent the District's payment activity accurately.
The statement that the city made "$425 million in unauthorized payments and no-bid contracts" is not supported by these records. With reference to $225 million in direct voucher payments made without authorization, the OCFO believes that it will be demonstrated that this number grossly overstates the amount spent using direct vouchers that did not follow the guidelines.
In every case, payments were approved by program managers before the OCFO issued checks. At no time did the office approve payments for fraudulent transactions. If that were proven to be the case, those responsible would be fired.
The District does have procurement problems that are not easily fixed. But since the late 1990s it has been systematically trying to reverse a culture of loosely following the rules. Improvement is continuing.
If the city did not have internal controls to monitor spending, it would be failing with its independent auditors; instead, the auditors have given the District a clean opinion for nine years. The ratings of the District's borrowings also have been on a steady upward path for the past year, rising to an A-plus last week -- the highest rating ever for D.C. bonds.
I want to assure District residents that no amount of unregulated spending is acceptable. My office is dedicated to the protection of their interests, and it cannot allow its integrity to be compromised by inaccurate reporting.
NATWAR M. GANDHI
Chief Financial Officer
District of Columbia