A $2,000 surplus and "absolute hogwash"
D.C. Chief Financial Officer Natwar M. Gandhi, who declined to speak for Sunday's story on his scuffling with Chancellor Michelle A. Rhee, apparently had second thoughts after he read the piece. He dispatched spokesman David Umansky to push back at Rhee's assertion that she has little or no control over budget and financing questions, calling it "absolute hogwash."
Rhee said on Friday that she assumed some responsibility for the confusion over the DCPS budget and funding of the proposed teacher contract. On April 13, she announced a $34 million surplus in her budget that Gandhi disallowed two days later. But she also made clear that she is dependent on Gandhi's office for data on where the agency is financially.
"It's unfortunate that we're in the situation that we're in," she said. "But I think it's important to make clear what we have responsibility for and what we don't."
Said Umansky: "She creates the budget and decides where the money will be spent. The CFO makes certain that all of the regulatory and legal requirements for spending District funds are met, that nothing improper is done. When asked, we assist the Chancellor, as we do all agency heads, in developing the overall budget and specific budget items. If there are questions about whether funds are available for specific purposes the CFO makes that determination. If funds are not available we work with the DCPS staff to identify sources for the necessary funds."
But what Rhee seemed to be saying is that the data used to make those decisions is not always reliable. Not so, said Umansky.
"This is the case of the chancellor blaming the messenger for information she doesn't like. When she first got here she didn't like the information she was getting. She got the CFO to replace her with someone she liked and never complained about the information she was getting. Now she is getting a truly independent analysis of their budget."
Umansky said the current analysis of the $700 million budget shows a surplus of $2,000 for FY 2009.
Umansky also took issue with the implication in the Sunday story that Gandhi is responsible for the District's spot on the Education Department watch list as a high-risk grant recipient. He said the reason the District is high-risk is that sub-grantees are not adequately monitored, and record keeping by DCPS staff working in federal grant programs has been spotty.Teachers, for example, have to keep track of the time they spend working hours paid for by grant money, he said.
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