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Government and People
DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA
FINANCIAL RESPONSIBILITY AND MANAGEMENT ASSISTANCE AUTHORITY
|FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Wednesday, June 7, 2000
|CONTACT: Cheryl Edwards
WASHINGTON, D.C. - The Financial Responsibility and Management Assistance Authority today held a hearing on Mayor Anthony A. William's nomination of Dr. Natwar M. Gandhi to be Chief Financial Officer for the District of Columbia. The Authority's action, following the D.C. Council's seven-day review period, confirms Gandhi as the District's third CFO since the independent office was created in 1995.
Gandhi, who since February 1997 has served as Deputy Chief Financial Officer for Tax and Revenue, is widely credited for revitalizing the District's tax agency. During his tenure, the Office of Tax and Revenue improved its customer service efforts and made tax collection more efficient, allowing the District to turn projected deficits into surpluses for the last three years. These surpluses have placed the District one year away from the return of home rule.
As CFO, Gandhi leads the office responsible for the District's finances, and he has established three top priorities: receiving a clean opinion, on schedule, from the District's independent auditor for FY 2000 and all subsequent years; obtaining a balanced budget for FY 2000 and beyond; and, providing effective, efficient financial systems to support the decision processes of District policymakers.
"As a first generation immigrant, I am grateful and proud of this opportunity, and I look forward to being an instrumental part of bringing home rule back to our nation's capital," said Gandhi. "My team and I relish the challenge of improving the District's financial processes. Instead of operating in a crisis mode, we will become a role model to other jurisdictions nationwide."
The Chief Financial Officer, although appointed by the Mayor, must be confirmed by the D.C. Financial Authority. The Authority, also known as the Control Board, was created by Congressional mandate in 1995 to assist the District government in its financial restructuring efforts.
One Judiciary Square, 441 4th Street, N.W., Suite 1150N, Washington, D.C. 20001, Phone: (202) 727-2476, Fax: (202) 737-5258, Web: www.dccfo.com
Natwar M. Gandhi, Ph.D., is Deputy Chief Financial Officer for Tax and Revenue for the District of Columbia and has served in this capacity since 1997.
Dr. Gandhi heads a 600-employee organization that administers tax laws and annually collects $2.7 billion in local revenues. As deputy chief financial officer, Dr. Gandhi reports to the District's Chief Financial Officer, as well as the Control Board, the District's City Council, its Mayor, and Congress.
When Dr. Gandhi joined the Office of Tax and Revenue (OTR), the District's tax system was in disarray. Its revenue base was shrinking, its employee morale was sinking, and deficits were projected.
Under Dr. Gandhi's leadership, OTR has turned around completely. Successes achieved by OTR since Dr. Gandhi's arrival include collecting substantially more in tax revenue than in previous years, turning projected deficits into huge surpluses in FY 1997 ($185 million), FY 1998 ($445 million), and FY 1999 ($100+ million); improving the District's accounting practices for business tax receivables, thus attaining a "clean opinion" from external auditors; issuing more than 150,000 tax refunds within 15 days during the 1999 tax filing season; establishing a new Telephone Information Center to improve public outreach; and introducing an Integrated Tax System.
Dr. Gandhi has 30 years of experience managing and supervising large agencies and projects in business, academic, and government settings. Prior to his appointment to OTR, Dr. Gandhi served as the associate director of tax policy and administration for the U.S. General Accounting Office (GAO). As associate director, Dr. Gandhi managed major GAO research projects involving financial and tax policy analysis. The reported recommendations of these projects have been incorporated in the U.S. tax code, resulting in billions of dollars of additional revenues. He has testified on tax issues numerous times before congressional and state legislative committees.
Dr. Gandhi also served as a special assistant to Gov. Jim Florio of New Jersey, where he studied the state pension system and advised on changes in its funding. He has also held consulting assignments with private sector corporations such as IBM and J&L Steel.
Before joining GAO, Dr. Gandhi taught financial and managerial accounting and financial analysis in several master's of business administration programs, including at the University of Pittsburgh where he was a coordinator of the Department of Accounting.
Dr. Gandhi has received numerous awards including GAO's Distinguished Service and Meritorious Service Awards, as well as the Achievement of the Year Award from the Association of Government Accountants (National and Washington, D.C. chapter). He has also published several papers in professional journals on accounting and taxation, appeared on television programs, and is often quoted in popular and trade press on controversial tax issues.
Dr. Gandhi holds a doctorate in accounting from Louisiana State University, a master's in business administration from Atlanta University, and an L.L.B and B.Com. in accounting from the University of Bombay.
Good Afternoon, Chairwoman Rivlin and members of the Authority. I am here to respond to your questions regarding my nomination by Mayor Anthony A. Williams for the position of Chief Financial Officer for the District of Columbia. I greatly appreciate the confidence the Mayor has shown in me by nominating me for this critical position as well as the City Council's endorsement of this nomination. I am eager to address the goals we all share for the Office of the Chief Financial Officer (OCFO).
I have discussed with the Mayor and communicated to OCFO executives three overarching goals that must be reached before the OCFO can be successful in the coming months and into the future. These are:
These are eminently achievable goals. We have the motivation and skilled professionals. We will inform you if we need any additional resources to achieve them.
We are already restructuring our operations to assure success. Here are steps already taken:
Key facets of the plan are: monthly closings beginning with the end of June; cycle time standards for resolving and posting financial transactions to the accounting system; training and competency certifications for all designated personnel; and, establishment of a system for reconciling the District's cash at all times. For this prior cycle, problems in these areas were instrumental in delaying the Comprehensive Annual Financial Report.
I plan to concentrate on the following areas for the next several months.
Accounting. We will structure the accounting system to provide accurate, real-time financial information on demand in formats tailored to the needs of the user. Every business with a budget the size of the District of Columbia has this. We have the technology platform. We just need to make the system work for us from a management standpoint.
Budget Execution. We will have a budget execution system that puts accountability for spending discipline with the managers who have the authority to spend money. An integrated budget and accounting system -- and SOAR is capable of this -- can be used to monitor plans against actual spending results to flag problems and opportunities for early resolution. We will also provide executive level reports that highlight financial status so that the Mayor, the Council and agency heads know where they stand financially throughout the fiscal year.
Budget Formulation. The role of the OCFO in the budget process is to provide quality analysis and alternatives built around the policy interests and direction of elected officials. Starting with the FY 2002 budget cycle, we will have a budget formulation system that ties requested resources to proposed work plans, one that surfaces issues and options early for policy choice. We will also make usage of the Performance Budget Module of SOAR a key objective.
Treasury. We will have a Treasury Office that prudently manages and invests the District's cash, pays bills promptly and knows the cash position of the District at all times. We will also find ways to improve the District's cash flow to reduce short-term borrowing. For example, we are already working on electronic funds transfer arrangements which will cut the time needed to post tax payments to District accounts.
Tax and Revenue. We will provide first-rate customer service, collect taxes due to the District, and assure the financial integrity and accuracy of tax and revenue information. As the Integrated Tax System becomes operational over the next eighteen months, we will realize productivity gains that can be reapplied within the tax agency or applied to other District needs.
We also need to work on the business methods and underlying law and regulation upon which the OCFO operates. I plan to work with you, the Council and the Mayor's Office on recommendations to streamline our processes wherever possible as soon as we can.
We have our work cut out for us but we relish the challenge and the opportunity to improve the financial management processes of the District.
Thank you for your time today and consideration of my nomination. I would be pleased to answer any questions you may have.
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