An audit released by the Office of the District of Columbia Auditor shows D.C. workers spent over $650,000 on eating out and hotel rooms during Winter Storm Jonas in 2016.
According to the audit, the district’s purchase of $521,857.46 worth of hotel rooms and $145,193.14 worth of food violated federal appropriations laws.
The audit states these expenses were in violation under the Home Rule Act, which requires these employees to have worked a 24-hour-shift to have received an exemption.
“These employees did not work 24-hour shifts, nor, given that they were not on an around-the-clock shift, was each individual employee essential to maintain the functions of the office during the snow emergency,” the audit said. “Local food was available to District employees, especially considering that several receipts show that government employees dined-in at restaurants or received meal cards for fast food restaurants such as McDonald’s or Subway, which required them to leave their work site to obtain food during breaks.”
During the blizzard, the district spent $19,916.30 at McDonald’s, $37,715 for Phil & Syl’s Catering Services, and thousands more at local restaurants.
The audit also says, “District employees did not provide receipts for $4,449.37 of the food purchases.”
While these employees ate and lodged on the taxpayer’s dollar during the storm, some workers who plowed the streets had to wait up to nine months to receive compensation for their work.
“According to interviews with staff at [the Department of Public Works] DPW and documentation provided by the agency, it is customary for DPW to initiate temporary promotions of sanitation truck drivers to be on-call snow plow and truck drivers during the peak winter snow period running from approximately mid-January through the end of March,” the audit said. “Six employees whom the District had temporarily promoted during the most recent snow season had not received compensation for their work as late as October 2016—nearly nine months after the storm.”
The audit shows D.C. spent a total of $41 million responding to the storm and “could have saved money through negotiation and improved management of retainer contracts.” The complete analysis is shown below.
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