Lax Management Cited in Parks Report

By Bhatti, Jabeen | The Washington Times (Washington, DC), September 27, 2001 | Go to article overview

Lax Management Cited in Parks Report


Bhatti, Jabeen, The Washington Times (Washington, DC)


Byline: Jabeen Bhatti

A report released yesterday by the D.C. Inspector General`s Office found the D.C. Department of Parks and Recreation was in worse shape than previously known, with problems including serious understaffing and failure to document spending, renovate ball fields or address safety and health issues at its facilities.

"Unfortunately, there was considerable evidence of lax management of DPR programs, serious operational inefficiencies, insufficient or no accountability for expenditures and property, and low employee morale," according to a report of inspections conducted from August 2000 through March 2001.

"The inspection team also found numerous instances of expenditures attributed to official programs and activities that appeared excessive or inappropriate. In most cases reviewed, there was no documentation that adequately explained or justified listed expenditures . . . or [any] verifying the receipt of many purchased items and services valued at thousands of dollars."

The report covers problems in the summer months of 2000 that led to endless complaints over uncut grass and unkempt parks and recreation centers and dirty pools. DPW Director Robert Newman was forced to resign because of mismanagement, improper use of funds and questionable entries on his resume.

Interim Director Neil Albert, appointed in October, promised to begin addressing the problems and has been able to upgrade the grass cutting and swimming pool programs and get them operational ahead of schedule, officials said.

But Mr. Albert said in an interview earlier this summer that the department was severely affected by "decades of disinvestment" and has a long way to go.

THE INSPECTION TEAM ALSO FOUND:

* Serious maintenance problems at recreation centers and other facilities, such as eight years of broken outdoor lights at the Langdon Park Community Center's amphitheater, a nearby tennis court overgrown with weeds, and peeling paint and plaster at the Anacostia Recreation Center, where contractors apparently didn't finish $1 million in renovations. The report says the problems have persisted for years and prevented the full use of the facilities.

* A decline in the maintenance staff from 1,000 employees to 50, which severely limited the ability to perform routine maintenance because they were too busy responding to more than 100 repair requests weekly.

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