Rebuilding Place in the Urban Space

"A community’s physical form, rather than its land uses, is its most intrinsic and enduring characteristic." [Katz, EPA] This blog focuses on place and placemaking and all that makes it work--historic preservation, urban design, transportation, asset-based community development, arts & cultural development, commercial district revitalization, tourism & destination development, and quality of life advocacy--along with doses of civic engagement and good governance watchdogging.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

A neat solution to (some of the) petty corruption in DC government-related civic organizations

Today's Washington Times is full of great stories on all kinds of topics related to the city and urbanism. One such article, "Auditor seeks D.C. inspector general’s probe of Citizens’ Advisory Council chair," is about allegations of misuse of funds by the Chair of the Fifth Police District's Community Advisory Council.

From the article:

Acting D.C. Auditor Yolanda Branche referred the matter to Inspector General Charles J. Willoughby for an investigation last month after reviewing a complaint by former 5DCAC Treasurer Debbie Smith-Steiner, according to an Aug. 1 letter. Ms. Smith-Steiner accused Mr. Brannum of using 5DCAC’s checking account with a debit card in violation of the group’s bylaws and with obstructing efforts to account for the funds, according to the documents. ...

5DCAC also has raised tens of thousands of dollars, Ms. Smith-Steiner said, and lists as “Business Sponsors and Partners” on its website such corporations as BET Networks, Coca-Cola, Comcast, Fort Myer Construction, M.C. Dean, Target and Verizon. Few of those companies would return calls for comment, much less confirm any donations to the group.

While I am going to write a more detailed piece about ANCs this week or next and the concept of shared operational services as a way to not only conserve limited amounts of organizational capital, but also to reduce the opportunity for corruption and misuse of funds, the same general point, also made in this entry, ""Networked solutions" for some problems with ANCs in DC," pertains:

Rather than expecting each ANC to have its own bank accounts, etc., I think that the City should manage the accounting functions of the accounts, with dedicated accounts for each ANC.

Each ANC would still need a treasurer and have to initiate each transaction, but the actual account and transactions processing would be managed by personnel in the City Office of the ANC.

So instead of recurring problems with accounting and misappropriation of funds at the ANC level, they could focus on making different mistakes.

Typically, the idea of a "shared services" model is common within large organizations, business and governments, with regard to the provision of information technology, payroll, and certain other functions.

In the private sector, shared service solutions have frequently been developed by large organisations through bringing together business support services, which previously split across different business units and subsidiaries under single an organisational structure, with common operating platforms.

Also see "Making shared services work in local government" and "Government departments need more than business plans to change" from the Guardian.

I think that the same general point is relevant to groups other than ANCs in the city, and would include Community Advisory Councils for the Police Department, for Friends of the Library groups (not that I have heard about improprieties with these types of groups), and for Friends of the Parks groups (not that I have heard about improprieties with these types of groups).

It'll be cheaper and more efficient, and significantly limit the opportunity for corruption.

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