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Suzanne Cambria, DC Action for Children
Testimony on GAO Report, District of Columbia: Weaknesses in Financial Management System Implementation to the
City Council Committee of the Whole and Committee on Finance and Revenue
May 14, 2001




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DC Action for Children
1616 P Street, NW, Suite 420, Washington, DC 20036 · (202) 234-9404 · Fax (202) 234-9108
http://www.dckids.org dcaction@dckids.org

Testimony on the GAO report regarding weaknesses in the implementation of the city's financial management system

before the Committee on Finance and Revenue and the Committee of the Whole

by Suzanne E. Cambric, MSW
Director of Public Policy
DC Action for Children

May 14, 2001

Good morning Chairman Cropp and Chairman Evans. Good morning, members of the Committee on Finance and Revenue and the Committee of the Whole. I am Susie Cambria, Director of Public Policy at DC Action for Children. As you also know, DC ACT is an independent, non-profit, multi-issue advocacy organization dedicated to improving conditions for children, youth and their families in the District of Columbia. I am pleased to have this opportunity to present our views on GAO report GAO-01-489, "District of Columbia: Weaknesses in Financial Management System Implementation." I am testifying today because DC Action for Children has been engaged in systems reform and budget advocacy since we were founded in 1992. Today I will speak about how the financial management system has impacted the budget process.

You may remember from testimony we delivered throughout the FY 2002 budget process that we started our remarks by commenting on the shortcomings of the proposed budget; two of these are pertinent to the topic before us today:

The budget lacks information the public needs to make an informed determination about the adequacy of program funding. The information needed to make such a determination includes baseline information, specific goals (rather than NA and TBD), program-level funding, and spending on specific types of issues (such as out-of-school time) across the budget. The lack of detail is especially frustrating in light of the mayor's commitment to a transparent budget.

The need for program-based budgeting. DC ACT, the Fair Budget Coalition, the Human Needs First Campaign, and a host of other organizations and coalitions have regularly advocated for real budgeting for a number of years. While the mayor's proposed FY 2002 budget started to link funding to programs, it failed to provide details that advocates and others would find useful: what investment is required to perform specific services that will reach a specific number of people. Exactly. (Excerpted from various FY 2002 budget statements.)

To be frank, our criticism of the city's budget process has never revolved around the city's financial management system -- it never had to. However, our limited knowledge about this area does not preclude us from commenting on how an improved system would allow us -- and others -- to better determine how the District's budget plans to meet the needs of children, youth and families. We believe that only when agencies can report actual costs of programs or services can the city begin to budget realistically. That is, if budgets are to be cut, we know the implications. Likewise, if budgets are increased, we know how many more individuals can be served. DC ACT expects that systems work so that services work for the city's residents. What this means, practically, is that IMA know the cost of implementing a home visitation program. It also means that OTR knows what an outreach campaign around the DC EITC will cost. It means linking dollars to goals and outcomes. And, it means determining after the fact what was spent and what was accomplished. Our understanding from the GAO report is that this planning and evaluation cannot be done because the financial management system was not implemented correctly or completely. Insofar as future budgeting is concerned, DC ACT urges the OCFO and others to address those issues (read, fix the problems) raised in the GAO report. While we understand the Mayor Williams has taken umbrage with the report, many of the points are valid and we hope that in the best interest of the residents of the city that the problems will be fixed.

Thank you for this opportunity to present our views on the GAO's report on the city's financial management system. Should you have any questions, now or later, we would be more than happy to answer them.

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