GLAA slams mismanagement and unresponsiveness at HIV/AIDS AdministrationGay and Lesbian Activists Alliance
PO Box 75265, Washington, DC 20013
November 2, 2001
Mayor Anthony Williams
Government of the District of Columbia
John A. Wilson Building
1350 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20004
Dear Mayor Williams:
Councilmember Jim Graham has publicly stated that unlike other cities, the District government has never issued a public accounting of how much it spends on its numerous AIDS programs. The AIDS budget, Graham said, has become almost meaningless because no one knows whether or how much large portions of the money appropriated for the budget are spent.
This remains as true today as when Jim Graham said it on August 24, 1993, when he was Executive Director of Whitman-Walker Clinic.
Jim Graham began asking at public hearings in 1986 for an accounting of how the agency spends DC appropriated dollars. He has continued to ask for the same accounting since his election to the Council. In March 2000, he finally received partial accountings for fiscal years 1996, 1997 and 1998. He has been promised the budgets for 1999 and 2000 but has not yet received that information.
Despite your own public assurances of open access to government budget information, the HIV/AIDS Administration (HAA) remains unwilling or unable to provide that basic accounting to the public and the Council.
After receiving no response whatsoever to a written request for budget information on May 8, 2001, GLAA filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request on May 22, 2001. After an impermissible and illegal delay, HAA staff said that they would comply. However, they indicated that their budget was not readily available.
On July 12, 2001, Thomas C. Collier, an attorney with the Office of the General Counsel of HAA, provided an incomplete accounting. Page 2 of the 6 page spreadsheet was completely unreadable from what appears to be a printing error.
A phone call to Mr. Collier on July 24, 2001 was never returned. A subsequent call to HAA on August 28, 2001 resulted in a promise from Ivan Torres for a new copy of the budget. Mr. Torres had previously told GLAA that this information would be available upon request. To date, the budget has not been provided.
It is not clear if HAA knows how it has spent its funds or is simply in gross violation of the law and insubordinate to the Mayor and Council.
What is clear is that this illegal behavior must cease.
Investigations of HIV/AIDS spending around the country have revealed numerous incidents of fraud and theft resulting in fines and imprisonment of government officials. While we don't know if fraud or theft has occurred in DC, HAA and the District government cannot provide any assurance that fraud is not widespread.
HAA has not even conducted oversight of its contractors. HAA has not disclosed any problems with any of its contractors. However, the DC Office of the Inspector General has provided an audit, conducted by Gardiner, Karnya & Associates, of the HIV Community Coalition of Metropolitan Washington, DC (HCC) for the year ending December 31, 1998. In the 'Summary of Audit Results,' point #7 states: "HCC was determined to be a high-risk auditee."
The audit cites numerous incidences of poor management and accounting discrepancies at HCC, yet the Office of the Inspector General has no more information on file since the 1998-99 audit.
It is not clear that HCC has corrected their accounting problems, and there is no evidence that other contracts don't have similar problems. HAA cannot or will not even say how much HCC has received in contracts and grants.
The U.S. Congress has re-authorized the Ryan White Health Care Act with provisions for random audits of state spending of funds.
DC is completely unprepared for any kind of independent audit, let alone one by the federal government. The Inspector General needs to begin an audit of HAA and the contractors to find out where our money is going and how it is being spent before the federal government does it for us.
The Administration needs to step in and correct the long-standing mismanagement and unresponsiveness in HAA under director Ron Lewis and make the personnel and structural changes that are desperately needed.
Finally, HAA and the Department of Health must immediately comply with GLAA's FOIA request of May 22, 2001 or we will have to begin legal proceedings against HAA and the City.
Please let us know what steps you are taking to address the incompetence and malfeasance in HAA.
CC: DC Councilmembers
John Koskinen, City Administrator
Kelvin Robinson, Chief of Staff
Carolyn Graham, Deputy Mayor for Children, Youth, and Families
Natwar Gandhi, Chief Financial Officer
Robert R. Rigsby, Corporation Counsel
Wanda Alston, Special Assistant to the Mayor
Charles C. Maddox, Inspector General
Dr. Ivan Walks, Director of the Department of Health
Ron Lewis, Director of HIV/AIDS Administration