Did The Dog Eat The Homework Projects Due In County Hall
By Michael Lewis
Remember school days when a report due for class wasn’t ready? We’d dream up excuses and try to decide which would win the teacher’s sympathy.
The thought came to mind as I read a list of assignments that Miami-Dade commissioners have handed to the administration. Of 121, all but seven are due to be finished but only 53 are.
That’s 44% completion. Where I went to school, no teacher would have given 44% a passing grade.
The reporting system was begun after the commission voted in March 2010 to ask the commission auditor for a scorecard on commission directives.
The measure was crafted by then-commissioner and now Mayor Carlos Gimenez, who said "greater efficiencies would be realized by requiring the Office of the Commission Auditor to inquire into the statusÓ of commission requests. Commissioners unanimously agreed.
The current report from Auditor Charles Anderson has made those inquiries. It notes that each Monday the auditor reminds the official assigned to each request to update its status.
For whatever reasons Ð some sufficient, others sounding suspiciously like excuses that the dog ate my homework Ð the list of reasons for delay is long.
So is the timeframe to do the work. Three reports pending today were due in 2011.
Among them was a request from Commissioner Jean Monestime about repackaging and renegotiating first mortgages of homeowners then in foreclosure.
For most of those unfortunate souls it’s far too late to act Ð they’re now probably former homeowners.
Another report due in 2011 directed the mayor’s office to support efforts to raise the local quality of life on the Gallup Well Being Index.
While this request, like the homeownership effort, offers a massive challenge, it’s still pending Ð the auditor cites an extension requested to Oct. 29, 2012, but doesn’t say if an extension was given or what happened next.
Those aren’t isolated requests that have fallen deeply into cracks.
Due last August was action on an order to negotiate better prices on all awarded contracts for goods and services before renewing them and asking the mayor to get better prices or explain why not.
The report is ready, the auditor says, but the mayor’s office hasn’t reviewed it so the commission can’t see it.
Another report due last August asked the cost to taxpayers of county set-aside and preference policies in contracts. The auditor said last July 3 that the staff was reviewing this "over the summerÓ Ð presumably last summer. That’s the latest status Ð doing it last summer.
A request that the mayor set up a policy to buy from local manufacturers had a deadline last Dec. 3. The auditor merely lists it as "pending.Ó
A report that the mayor was to make by last Nov. 30 on uses of documentary surtax funds and tracking their spending is also "pending.Ó
So is a report due Jan. 3 "analyzing methods and strategies to lower costs on county capital projects.Ó That report, the auditor said, is "drafted and is pending review and signature by the mayor’s office.Ó The homework is done but hasn’t been handed in.
A report that Commissioner Juan Zapata sought by Jan. 28 on circulator bus routes in western Miami-Dade is late, the audit says, because the transit director is trying to meet with Mr. Zapata to tell him about it. How hard is she trying?
Some reports come so late that by then it doesn’t matter what they say. Like the report on mortgages, they’ve passed their time of impact.
Still pending, for example, is a report due Feb. 14 on distribution of free county tickets for the Sony Open tennis tournament, which ended March 31. Whatever it says won’t matter much.
Were all 121 studies, reports and action requests vital? No. But some could help improve county efficiency and tax rates in major ways.
Vital or not, however, commissioners were seeking facts the mayor’s office should be providing to elected officials without question of a request’s wisdom.
That’s why then-commissioner Gimenez ordered the auditor’s office to track requests.
And that’s also why now-Mayor Gimenez’s office needs to find a way to comply.
The 121 tasks were divided among six deputy mayors and aides. Three of the six completed at least half the assigned tasks. But one person finished only one of 22.
We know who did the homework and who didn’t.
While the commission didn’t discuss the report on late projects, much less who was late, Mr. Gimenez, as the "teacher,Ó needs to sort out who’s doing the work and who needs to stay after school to get it done.