Maybe I should just cross my fingers and hope for the best?
I like to know how my tax payer dollars are being spent so I regularly check the DC Auditor's website. And once again I saw that there has not been a specific ANC audit posted online since September 2011.
If there hasn't been an ANC audit report posted since September 2011 (and those reports covered fiscal years 2008 - March 2011) where in the world is the accountability? Where is the transparency? Where are the checks and balances? Literally, "Where are the checks?!"
In the past 18 months we have seen three DC Council Members violate the public trust in exchange for self-enrichment. They were able to do it, in part, because they believed they would never get caught. They really didn't think anyone was paying attention, or paying enough close attention.
Its disconcerting to know that during the time that these public officials were playing the political corruption edition of "Deal or No Deal" there doesn't appear to be anyone doing audits of our Advisory Neighborhood Commissions. And if recent audits have been conducted it doesn't appear that the DC Auditor's office is posting those audits online where they could be doing some good.
If a tree falls in a forest and no one is there to hear it does it make a sound? If an audit is conducted but never shared with the public did it ever happen?
This is not the first time I have written about the lack of timely ANC audit reports or sounded the alarm about concerns of how an ANC was spending (or wasting) quarterly allotments.
It literally is an old story at this point.
Despite my concerns, questions, and outright pleas nothing ever seems to happen. And so in my own way I have given up any hope that anything even remotely looking like accountability and transparency will ever occur --at least in any significant and meaningful way. I have lost faith in this system, the standard to which all systems should be judged. I no longer expect theft or mismanagement to be thwarted or discovered before the well runs dry. I just hope there are at least a few dollars leftover when the gravy train finally comes to an end to have a decent funeral. I'm not kidding, I really do feel that way.
Again, I am not saying that all the ANCs must be bad and that ANC commissioners are stealing or mismanaging ANC funds on a large scale -- but if it is happening at all, it would be nice to have that information sooner rather than later. On the flip side, I like reading ANC audit reports because I like to see how successful and efficient Advisory Neighborhood Commissions are doing business. I like the idea of learning and sharing "best practices" so that my ANC can do better. Hell, so I can learn how to do better!
But without that vital and crucial information my neighbors and I are left to speculate, and wonder, and hope (but not really) that everything is okay. And someone like me who has the nerve to ask questions, or speak up about the lack of transparency is rewarded with the "stink eye" (or worse, threats of physical harm upon my blessed person) every time I show up to ANC meetings. All this animosity just for asking questions I should be able to get freely, information that would be available in those audit reports. Public information that should be made readily available to all residents. I shouldn't have to make a written request (in triplicate) for an appointment to see the ANC minutes (assuming they exist). Then assuming that request is granted (which it probably will not), then provide my own paper in order to make a copy of the minutes on the very ANC copier that is paid for with my tax dollars.
In some unfortunate situations that is what concerned residents like myself are reduced to doing -- begging. Begging for the basic information we have a right to know by law, by right, and by our very own tax dollars.
As Kanye West would say, "That s--t cray."
I sat in an ANC meeting last month where the 2013 - 2014 commission alleged they were still trying to sift through the finances and locate financial documents of the 2011 - 2012 commission term. Several current commissioners didn't even know who the treasurer was in the last term for that commission -- 5 months after they had been elected to their new commission seats! (FYI --- that commissioner who was the former treasurer was sitting on the dais with them)
Once I (and my neighbors) got over the shock of how much basic information was lacking I had a really horrible realization. Even if the new commission reached out to the DC Auditor's office it was unlikely the auditor's office would be able to help them. If the Auditor's website is accurate and all the audits that have been performed are posted online then an audit on that ANC hadn't been conducted in many years. That made me wonder, "Where do you go when the very agency that is tasked with being the watchdog for waste and fraud seems to need a seeing eye dog?"
Don't even get me started on the process of getting elected to be an ANC. I was in a meeting a few weeks ago and a very astute resident asked the DC Chairman why does she have to include her home address when she signs an ANC Nominating Petition but the person who is running for the ANC position can use a PO Box for their home address? I know that isn't a question for the DC Auditor but is still a very good question. If that isn't tomfoolery (and shenanigans) I don't know what is. How can someone represent me and my neighborhood when I am not entirely sure they even live in my neighborhood?!
I understand that DC has big issues, and bigger budgets than the Advisory Neighborhood Commissions but that doesn't mean that the ANCs aren't important. For people like me, your every day (albiet nosy) resident, it is those ANC dollars that have the potential to have the biggest positive impact on my neighborhood. Most community advocates (and future DC Council Members) cut their teeth as an ANC Commissioner. If they don't learn during that term that they are to be held accountable when will they learn? Before someone decides to steal or mismanage $350,000 they probably started with small amounts, they started cutting corners where they didn't think anyone would notice, where they didn't think anyone would care. I think the ANCs should be given "great weight" and in more ways than one.
As I sit here, writing this post at 1am, I find myself wondering, "when exactly did I lose faith in the system?"
Then I am comforted by the fact that I do have a record of the exact moment -- it's posted right here on this blog.
And it didn't even take me five years to do it.
BTW I have absolutely "0" expectations that this post will change a damn thing which is why I am taking my tired, frustrated, and discouraged taxpayer behind to sleep. I have an ANC meeting to go to tonight and I have a feeling I will need my body armor. :(
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