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Accountabilityby Mark Reutter8:10 amJan 4, 20160

How to deal with tardy agency audits? Don’t talk about it!

Fearing press reports about continued blown deadlines, the official responsible for city audits says he just won’t announce any more deadlines. Blame the auditors.

Above: Mayor Rawlings-Blake listens as Finance Director Henry Raymond announces the city’s new audit timeline policy. (Mark Reutter)

After failing to meet their own deadlines for finishing the first batch of voter-mandated agency audits, the Rawlings-Blake administration is taking a new approach to deflecting criticism about their sluggishness:

They’re not going to talk about it.

Finance Director Henry J. Raymond has vowed not to make any more statements to the public, media or the City Council about when the audits of 13 principal agencies may be finished.

“The audits will be completed when the auditors complete them,” Raymond told reporters last month with Delphic ambiguity.

As Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake stood by his side at a Dec. 16 press conference, Raymond continued, “The Finance Department is no longer giving out estimated times of completion, since we have no control over it. The auditors have control over it.”

Given the whole sequence of delays, the prospect of more nondisclosure adds a fresh chapter to the saga of an administration allergic to looking at its own workings and performance.

Three Years Have Gone By

It was back in 2012 that city voters mandated that the audits of 13 principal city agencies be completed by next December.

One year ago, Raymond told the City Council that he anticipated the audits of five agencies – Police, Public Works, Transportation, Finance, and Recreation and Parks – to be done by last June.

He then downsized and elongated that promise, making it three agencies done by September 3, only to be contradicted by the mayor’s spokesman, Howard Libit, who set the new date as November 30.

Even the last deadline was blown.

So far, the administration has released only the following: a single highly critical performance audit of the Department of Transportation, a lukewarm report on the Finance Department, and a scathing performance review of Finance’s licensing inspection unit.

Missing in action are other promised performance audits of Finance, a financial audit of DOT, performance and financial audits of the Police Department (officially due on December 15), plus any information on the audit status of Public Works and Recreation and Parks.

And that’s just the beginning. The administration has relegated General Services, Human Resources, Law, and Planning to audits  later this year.

Still more audits not yet underway include such politically “sensitive” agencies as Housing and Community Development, the Mayor’s Office of Information Technology (MOIT), and the Baltimore Development Corp.

Ducking a “Write-Up”

With private accounting firms now reportedly in charge of the audit timetable, we asked Raymond how he can still make promises that all 13 agency audits will be done by December 2016?

His reply, “Because I am in contact with the audit firms. But we are not publicly giving the estimated times of completion because if we are not able to meet those, it’s a write-up,” referring to articles in The Brew and elsewhere.

To avoid “a write-up,” Raymond continued, the administration isn’t talking about the progress of the audits. “This is how we’re going to do this moving forward,” he reiterated.

No Longer Here

The saving grace for Rawlings-Blake is that she will no longer be mayor when the December 2016 deadline arrives.

There is no penalty against a mayor who fails to follow a mandate in the City Charter.

Conceivably, the next City Council could file an objection in court, but that’s politically unlikely in a city where the mayor and the legislative body are of the same political party.

It’s also of little practical value.

By the time 2017 rolls around, the array of semi-finished or unfinished agency audits will be so old – they cover the years 2010-13 – that they’ll be of little use to anyone.

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