WASHINGTON - A report by congressional auditors on the District of Columbia's finances is expected to contend that the city's techniques for estimating revenues and spending are not accurate, but that city officials have not violated federal or district law, the city's top financial officer said yesterday.
The much-anticipated report is also expected to say that city officials have conformed to generally accepted principles for government accounting and to "the norms is state and local government" budgeting and other practices, according to Ellen O'Connor, the district's deputy mayor for finance.
O'Connor's comments came as a spokesman for Rep. Pete Stark, D-Calif., said the date for release of the report by the U.S. General Accounting Office and the Congressional Budget Office has slipped from this week until next week at the earliest.
The auditors, which are conducting the review in short-term and long-term phases, are looking at "the past, the present, and the future" of district finances,O'Connor said.
For the future, the auditors are expected to say that they agree with the district's multiyear forecast, which predicts a growing gap between revenues and expenses that will reach more than $800 million by 1999, O'Connor said. "If anything, they think it is understated," she said.
"For the present, they are going to say that they think that our estimating techniques in revenues and spending aren't accurate and that it's part of the reason that we have financial problems," said O'Connor, who has worked closely with the auditors.
"We agree that there have been substantial revisions to both revenue and spending estimates; that's just a fact," she said. "Our argument is that we have done about as well as any state and local government has done in the middle of a recession and with escalating health care costs."
Stark, who chairs the House Committee on the District of Columbia, and another California Democrat, Rep. Julian Dixon, requested the review on March 29 "to examine the causes, effects, and remifications of the district's current financial problems."
Stark and Dixon, who chairs the House Appropriations subcommittee on the District of Columbia, asked the accounting and budget agencies to analyze the multiyear spending and revenue plan as well as "the major financial inevitabilities over the next five years." The agencies will examine such liabilities as debt service payments and pension funding, and the funding amounts and sources available to meet such payments.
The lawmakers also called for an explanation of accounting mechanisms that the district uses and "of how large annual cash deficits seem to arise from ~balanced' budgets and financial statements that show excess revenue over expenditures." Also on the list of the auditors' short-term tasks is a comparison of budget projections and actual expenditures for the past three years.