The non-answer answer by the Rawlings-Blake administration at the close of business yesterday was deafening.
Finance Chief Henry J. Raymond did not respond to numerous requests from The Brew for information on the status of three agency audits due yesterday.
There was also silence from Howard Libit, the mayor’s spokesman.
As for Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake herself, she did not utter the word “audits” in her monthly Q-and-A session with WEAA-FM radio host Marc Steiner yesterday morning.
Once again, a public promise on this issue was not kept.
Last January, Raymond told the Board of Estimates that the first round of audits would be completed in June 2015. That date was then pushed back to September 3.
On September 16, Raymond told The Brew that the audits for the departments of Finance, Transportation, and Recreation and Parks were in draft form and would be released to the Board of Estimates “in less than a month.”
Yet only a week later, spokesman Libit told The Baltimore Sun that the three audits would not be released until the end of November to make sure they were “thorough and complete and right.”
On November 12, Raymond told the City Council’s Taxation, Finance and Economic Development Committee that the three audits were “on schedule” to be completed by November 30.
Delays to the Public Release
Last night, The Brew learned from sources the status of the audits: One has been completed and is in the hands of Raymond; the two other audits will reportedly require another two weeks to be finished.
But don’t expect any of the audits to be released to the public in the immediate future.
Raymond has set up seven procedural steps for each agency audit, the final step being that the “principal agency” (meaning his Finance Department) “will facilitate the transmittal” of the audits to the Board of Estimates.
The process of handing over the audits to the BOE, headed by the mayor and City Council President Bernard C. “Jack” Young, is not straightforward since there is a delay in scheduling items on the board’s agenda.
Placing an item on the agenda takes at least a week – more commonly two or three weeks.
This means that the completed audit in theory could be submitted to the board as early as its next meeting on December 9. There are two other dates for board meetings this month: December 16 and December 23.
As for the other two audits, public disclosure is likely to be sometime in January 2016 – unless there are more delays.
Stokes: “They Don’t Care”
Councilman Carl Stokes, who has spearheaded the drive for audits as chairman of the taxation committee, expressed keen exasperation with the process last night.
“One of my frustrations is that government, or at least this administration and most of my present colleagues [on the City Council], don’t believe that taxpayer dollars should be accounted for,” he told The Brew.
KEY BREW STORIES ON THE DELAYED AUDITS
• Audits update: three to be released soon, finance director says (11/12/15)
In the 2012 referendum, voters called for quadrennial audits of 13 city agencies to be completed by the end of Rawlings-Blake’s term in December 2016.
While the requirement is part of the City Charter, so far not a single report has been released.
The delays in getting out the first three audits raise doubts about whether the mayor is serious about meeting the voter mandate, Stokes said last night.
“This administration doesn’t care how long it takes to drag this out – or not get it done at all,” he said.
Stokes said his candidacy for mayor next year is predicated on his pledge to bring audits and accountability to city government.
The only other vocal audit advocate on the City Council, Eric T. Costello, wrote in a blog post last night that the drawn-out process was a matter of frustration to him.
Costello said that the taxation panel will continue to hold monthly hearings on the audit process, keeping in mind that the Charter deadline for completion of all 13 agency audits is the end of 2016.
“I look forward to continuing to work together with Council President Young, Councilman Stokes, other members of the Council, the Director of Finance, and the Administration,” Costello wrote, adding, “It is my sincere hope that all 13 audits will be completed on time.”
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