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In a report issued last week that took two years to put together, the D.C. auditor found that the Office of Public Education Facilities Modernization had committed a host of improprieties under now-City Administrator Allen Lew. The charges mostly had to do with recordkeeping, but also included an allegedly cozy relationship between an OPEFM procurement manager and a construction company that received school contracts.
Put on the spot about it at his weekly press conference, master-of-process Vince Gray responded very much like his predecessor might have: Well it turned out all right in the end, didn’t it? “Our schools look better today than they have ever looked in the District of Columbia,” he told a packed briefing room. “The product of what they did is quite evident. I talk to parents all the time, and a lot of parents are very appreciative of the physical environment.”
Then, to make things doubly awkward, Gray said that auditor Deborah Nichols had done a great job during his time as chair of the Council, and he reappointed her without hesitation. But according to Lew, she couldn’t accomplish fairly basic auditing tasks, like asking the Chief Financial Officer for records.
“I didn’t quite understand how the auditors were conducting this thing,” Lew said. “It’s all in the records. For some reason, the auditor couldn’t find them.” The bottom line, Lew said, was that shit got built—-and built well—-despite a system that had been in “absolute paralysis.”
“OPEFM intentionally dispensed with much of the bureaucracy and top-hamper that traditionally impeded progress, and instead assembled a highly qualified team of construction and development professionals with proven track records of implementing sophisticated projects,” Lew wrote in his 11-page response to the audit.