The current state of affairs with the failing nonprofit DC Children and Youth Investment Trust Corp., known as the DC Trust, is a crying shame. No, make that a public outrage.
This week, according to Post reporter Aaron C. Davis, the DC Trust’s board voted to dissolve the 17-year-old organization “to cover debts from exorbitant spending on and by staff, including the misuse of the organization’s credit cards.”
Faced with that troubling news, D.C. Council member Yvette M. Alexander (D-Ward 7), chair of the committee on health and human services, said she wants to focus on how to move forward. “We will work together to make sure that definitely all the providers do not have to worry about their funding and all the children and families do not have to worry about programming.”
How shortsighted for a legislator with oversight responsibility.
Let’s linger a while on the fiasco.
People who have been footing the bill for the DC Trust for years — namely, D.C. taxpayers — need to know what led to the shutdown.
For starters, what’s all this talk about the nonprofit lacking funds to cover millions in promised grants, as well as its own operating costs? What happened to the money?
We’re not talking about chump change.
According to the Office of the Chief Financial Officer, from fiscal 2007 through fiscal 2012, the District provided the DC Trust with approximately $124 million to meet the needs of children and youths. In fiscal 2014 alone, the District’s Department of Youth Rehabilitation Services disbursed $6.5 million to the DC Trust to provide programs and services for DYRS-involved youths through the DC YouthLink program.
Apparently, accounting for the DC Trust’s use of millions of public dollars is like trying to find out where pollen goes when it’s released into the air.
Don’t think so? The D.C. auditor tried to determine whether the DC Trust properly used District funds that were provided for specific purposes. This from a Feb. 12, 2014, report titled “Audit of the Administration of District Funds to the D.C. Children and Youth Investment Trust Corporation”: “We are unable to confidently conclude whether CYITC complied with all applicable governance and internal controls for the sample selected from the past several fiscal years.”
If that wasn’t clear enough, city auditors said they found that the DC Trust “could not produce complete supporting documentation regarding its grant-making process”; “did not maintain sufficient documentation to validate the monitoring of all grantees”; and “did not record its District funding to ensure the related revenues were readily identifiable and associated with related expenditures.”
In other words, the auditor couldn’t tell when, how or where District funds were used by the DC Trust, let alone whether the money effectively served the needs of the city’s children and youths.
It doesn’t stop there.
A D.C. auditor report issued last month found that the DC Trust needed to obtain corroborating documentation from groups receiving funds through DYRS’s DC YouthLink program reimbursing their expenses (duh) and that the DC Trust’s expense review and approval processes needed documentation and better record-keeping.
The Department of Youth Rehabilitation Services, in the wake of the auditor’s investigation, removed the DC Trust from management of DC YouthLink.
Not that the DC Trust didn’t already have a head-shaking history. The DC Trust was used by former D.C. Council member Harry Thomas Jr. to embezzle more than $350,000 intended for youth baseball programs. In 2013, Capitol Hill rapped the DC Trust for lacking controls to administer a $20-million-a-year federally funded school voucher program.
With all that, it wasn’t until this year that the DC Trust board of directors started to get a handle on the chaos over which it presided. It started, said one board member, with the discovery of then-DC Trust executive director Ed Davies’s unauthorized use of organization credit cards for personal use, to the tune of several thousand dollars. Davies resigned in January and made restitution. The revelation, however, prompted the board to retain an outside firm to examine the books. That’s when it found out that top management had been messing with the money. Davies has denied any wrongdoing and told The Post he’s being made “the fall guy” for years of mismanagement predating him.
In a carefully worded statement Thursday, board chair Marie Johns and Interim Executive Director Angela Jones Hackley expressed sadness that the “DC Trust is facing significant financial crisis . . . due to mismanagement by former leadership over a period of several years,” adding “the financial picture is so dire that the board voted to develop a plan for dissolution.”
Sorry, but that’s not the answer we need. What and who caused the crisis? How did it develop under the noses of board directors, including mayoral and council representatives serving on the board?
On behalf of D.C. taxpayers, who will be held accountable? Yes, that word so disliked by public functionaries, accountable.
Read more from Colbert King’s archive.