Having an internal watchdog to audit city agencies does not result in significant improvements in performance and operations if those same agencies fail to make the recommended changes. But as The Washington Examiner's Alan Blinder reported last week, that's exactly what happened in D.C., where 11 of 21 agencies failed to implement at least one of the recommendations made by Inspector General Charles Willoughby's team of auditors.
District law confers the responsibility of overseeing the IG's recommendations on the Office of Risk Management. But Willoughby's latest report notes that since fiscal 2005, the ORM has not tracked the implementation of at least 44 of his recommendations to make sure they were implemented. The same old excuses were cited as reasons agency heads apparently felt free to blow off auditors on issues that included the recovery of overpayments to city contractors: not enough money or staff, legal restrictions, etc.
Mayor Vincent Gray and D.C. Council members should no longer allow agency heads to get away with such excuses. If they can't or won't fix the problems identified by the D.C. Office of the Inspector General in a timely fashion, they should be replaced.
Particularly damning was the IG's determination that D.C. Adult Protective Services repeatedly failed to report criminal incidents of abuse, neglect and exploitation of elderly and vulnerable adults to the police. Willoughby warned that "unabated" problems in the troubled agency left the door open for known or suspected criminals to prey on elderly and disabled citizens without fear of prosecution, which his team substantiated at the average rate of 10 cases per month.
APS claimed that it lacks a "formal system to communicate with police" -- which other adult protective services in other cities manage to do on a regular basis. Doesn't anybody over there know how to dial 911?
Protecting this vulnerable population is supposed to be APS' main job, so this is a mission-critical failing. D.C. Council Member Jim Graham called the IG's report "amazing and upsetting," but District citizens have told The Examiner that they were repeatedly ignored when they asked APS and various council members to help elderly relatives who were being exploited.
APS has finally agreed to create a partnership with the Metropolitan Police Department. But like the other foot-dragging agencies named in the report, it cannot be trusted to follow through without direct supervision by ORM -- which should also be required to report to the council on a monthly basis.