You are on page 1of 3

Testimony of

Fritz Mulhauser
Before the
Committee of the Whole
of the
Council of the District of Columbia
on
PR 20-1078, D.C. Auditor Kathleen Patterson Appointment Approval Resolution of 2014
October 30, 2014
___________________________________________________________________________________
Thank you for the opportunity for citizens to testify concerning this important position and the
proposed candidate, Kathy Patterson.
Ms. Patterson brings a wealth of qualifications including experience digging out facts as a reporter,
service from 1995 to 2007 as an elected Council Member in this body, and in recent years as a senior
official in a major nonprofit with responsibility for translating research into policy. This committee and
the full Council should not hesitate to confirm the Chairmans nominee.
Allow me to add two recommendations to increase the usefulness of the D.C. Auditor to the
Council.
First, the Council must strengthen oversight to assure access. There have been in recent years
situations in which the Auditor couldnt reach conclusions because D.C. agencies wouldnt allow the
auditor to get the information needed to do their job.1 The Council needs to send a firm message this is
unacceptable.
Second, the Council should expand its expectations for the Auditors work and support it with
added resources. The Council needs more from its staff to be sure the District is getting the most from
every tax dollar, and the D.C. Auditor must review not only the costs but also the results--the efficiency
and effectiveness--of D.C. Government services.
I am testifying as a resident of the District for over 40 years. In that time I have worked in the
United States Congress, the federal executive branch, and in the private nonprofit world.
In particular I served the Congress for a decade as Assistant Director in a Program Evaluation and
Methodology Division of the GAO or Government Accountability Office then called the General
Accounting Office. In that capacity I had a unique opportunity to take part in significant change in a
legislative audit agencyalong lines I am suggesting today for the District.2
1

For example, in 2012, the Auditor could not answer the Councils questions whether police spying complied with statutory
limits because the Metropolitan Police Department refused the necessary access to records. Audit of the Metropolitan
Police Departments Investigations and Preliminary Inquiries Involving First Amendment Activities. Report DCA 232012
(September 27, 2012) at p.26. Available at: http://dcauditor.org/sites/default/files/DCA232012.pdf.
2

An account of evaluation within the GAO from 1980 to 1996 is in Patrick G. Grasso, End of An Era: Closing the U.S.
General Accounting Offices Program Evaluation and Methodology Division. American Journal of Evaluation, Vol. 17, p.
115 (1996).

The GAO name changefrom accounting to accountability broadly--symbolizes my testimony.


So Whats in a name? As former Comptroller General David Walker wrote3 at the time of the
change in 2004, after 80 years accounting work was no longer central in what the Congress needed:
A recent crossword puzzle in The Washington Post asked for a three-letter term describing
a GAO employee; the answer was CPA. In fairness, GAO did primarily scrutinize government
vouchers and receipts in its early years. The days of accountants in green eyeshades, however, are
long gone. Although GAO does serve as the lead auditor of the U.S. governments consolidated
financial statements, financial audits are only about 15 percent of GAOs current workload.
Most of the agencys work involves program evaluations, policy analyses, and legal opinions and
decisions on a broad range of government programs and activities both at home and abroad.
GAO added evaluation capability in 1980 at the request of Congress and Walkers comment
suggests its spread. Though the work of diffusing needed approaches and staff skills was hardly done
in the 16 years, we made a strong start. Even the formal job title of most staff there is now evaluator
not auditor.
Yet the authorizing statute for the D.C. Auditor is rooted firmly in the older, narrower mission,
resting on examination of vouchers.4 21st Century legislatures generally agree, however, that they
need moreto know if government is getting results, achieving their goals and meeting the needs of
the communities that elect them.5
The Council of course gets valuable input from the executive branch, committee staff, and interest
groups. But professional, objective, fact-based, nonpartisan, and non-ideological information is vital,
and takes significant effort when the subjects are big and complicated.

David A. Walker, GAO Answers the Question, Whats in a Name? Roll Call (July 19, 2004) (emphasis added). Available
at http://www.gao.gov/about/rollcall07192004.pdf.
4

D.C. Code 1-204.55(b): The District of Columbia Auditor shall each year conduct a thorough audit of the accounts and
operations of the government of the District in accordance with such principles and procedures and under such rules and
regulations as he may prescribe. In the determination of the auditing procedures to be followed and the extent of the
examination of vouchers and other documents and records, the District of Columbia Auditor shall give due regard to
generally accepted principles of auditing including the effectiveness of the accounting organizations and systems, internal
audit and control, and related administrative practices. Contrast the GAO mission statement: GAO examines the use of
public funds; evaluates federal programs and activities; and provides analyses, options, recommendations, and other
assistance to help the Congress make effective oversight, policy, and funding decisions. In this context, GAO works to
continuously improve the economy, efficiency, and effectiveness of the federal government by conducting financial audits,
program reviews and evaluations, policy analyses, legal opinions, investigations, and other services. GAOs activities are
designed to ensure the executive branchs accountability to the Congress under the Constitution and the federal
governments accountability to the American people. Available at: http://www.gao.gov/dsp/3mission.html.
5

Following the GAO lead, over 40 states have added program evaluation to their legislative audit office work. See National
Conference of State Legislators, Ensuring the Public Trust 2012: Program Policy Evaluations Role in Serving State
Legislatures. Available at: http://www.ncsl.org/documents/nlpes/EPT2012.pdf. The report shows evaluations now outpacing
audits, just as at GAO. Further encouragement to states to base decisions on sound evaluation is coming from the Results
First Initiative, a project of The Pew Charitable Trusts and the MacArthur Foundation, headed by the former director of the
Florida legislatures audit and evaluation arm.

What could the Auditor do here if given the expanded charge and resources Im suggesting? A
moments thought suggests public policy topics in the District that have drawn scattered discussion and
analysis but where solid facts on the effectiveness of programs would be welcome:
How effective are current D.C. Government approaches to affordable housing?
Is the public university serving the community as it should?
Is police use of force under control after years of effort and a period of oversight by the U.S.
Department of Justice beginning in 2001?
How does D.C. compare to other cities in making government data public for the 21st century?
Are public mental health services effective?
Can improved job training and employment services better address the high unemployment in
some parts of D.C.?
These are high-profile, but behind-the-scenes topics could merit review as well, for example, how
well is the District doing its state functions such as regulating professions or insurance?
In my own GAO work, I observed how the agency grew to serve Congress better with timely and
useful information on tough questions, with the addition of staff trained in analytic disciplines beyond
accounting so that we could fully measure the governments performance and help the legislative
branch hold it accountable for results.
D.C. residents look forward to the work of the D.C. Auditor under Ms. Pattersons leadership in
coming years. Please confirm her, and commit also to a broadened vision of the Auditors scope with
the access, resources and authority to fully assist the Council in doing its work.