Gandhi defends himself against audit

Local,DC,Freeman Klopott
The District's chief financial officer is defending himself against an audit that found internal controls lacking in the tax office three years after a midlevel manager was charged with embezzling $50 million. Harriette Walters is now in prison, but her nearly 20-year embezzling enterprise continues to haunt CFO Natwar Gandhi.

In a letter last week, auditors KMPG, LLP wrote there was little "to prevent a single employee from being able to prepare, review and approve [computerized] cash receipt vouchers." The report said that "these deficiencies increase the risk that inappropriate refunds may be issued."

Walters, a tax assessment manager, approved $50 million in improper refunds. She was convicted and is serving a 17 1/2-year sentence.

On Tuesday, Gandhi said during a D.C. Council hearing on the audit that examiners had found there are policies in place to protect against similar schemes, but they're not being "strictly followed." He noted that auditors did find secondary controls to protect against schemers such as a system that verifies refunds against taxpayer data and another that compares electronic tax returns to what's reported by employers.

"We take very seriously this finding, especially given the amount of time and resources we have devoted to improving internal controls within [his office]," Gandhi said. He said is "fully committed to addressing these deficiencies."

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