RCC Passes County Audit

RCC Passes County Audit

County auditor's findings conclude RCC's financial house in order.

A county-led audit of the Reston Community Center's (RCC) unveiled on Monday found that RCC's management of its fiscal policies and practices are "adequate." The audit came about, in part, from criticism stemming from revelations earlier this summer that the Reston Community Center (RCC) Teen Department suffered cost overruns that forced two popular teen programs to end two months ahead of schedule and before the end of fiscal year 2003.

On June 2, the Board of Supervisors requested the audit which was performed by the Office of Financial and Programs Auditor and reviewed the community center's fiscal policies and practices.

The report found that "RCC's financial management systems, including related policies, procedures and practices, are adequate for the successful management of its operations."

In addition, the auditor applauded new initiatives, including programmatic budgeting, brought about by RCC's executive director Denny Kern. The new policies have "given RCC management better control over the financial operations of the Center."

The auditor's report dated Sept. 9 was made public Monday, Sept. 15.

Supervisor Cathy Hudgins (D-Hunter Mill) requested the audit and on Tuesday she said she was very pleased to accept the findings. "It's unfortunate that this happened, but I am pleased that it does not reflect any systemic or institutional problems with the community center."

Hudgins added that the audit, along with programmatic budgeting and stricter oversight, should go a long way in ensuring that similar shortfalls do not happen in the future.

Kern declined to comment about the results of the findings, saying that it was "premature" to talk about a report that the full board has yet to see. Kern is not scheduled to present the findings to the board until the Oct. 9 long range planning committee meeting. Ruth Overton, the board chairman, also had little to say about the mostly positive findings except to say that: "It's nothing we didn't expect. It's all really quite benign."

Not everyone, however, is happy with the audit process. RCC board member John Lovaas found the circumstances around the audit to be "most irregular" and the results to be a "whitewash." "The governing board of the community center, which first requested the audit, has neither been consulted nor contacted about the audit's scope, the field work or report," Lovaas said on Tuesday, adding that he had not received a draft report or a copy of the final report. "The executive director whose role was presumably under scrutiny seems to have been the sole point of contact," Lovaas said. "The potential for conflict of interest ... is very worrisome."

ACCORDING TO THE REPORT, auditors met with Overton and Kern on Sept. 3 to discuss a draft report. The findings rely on Kern's observations about the cost overruns. "The chairman of the Board of Governors and the executive director of RCC said they were in general agreement with the facts and conclusions presented in the report," the auditors reported.

In the report, the auditor found that "RCC had not run out of money and could have continued the two teen programs." In fact, Kern, working with Supervisor Cathy Hudgins (D-Hunter Mill) and county's Department of Management and Budget, did transfer funds in May to keep the Support on Suspension (SOL) program afloat.

"The Executive Director agreed that RCC could have transferred money from other areas to continue to operation the two teen programs," the report said. "However, [Kern] said he had lost confidence in the Teen Program Director's [Shawna Cole] ability to responsibly spend and account for additional funds."

According to the report, "repeated" inquiries into Cole's "accelerated pace of her FY 2003 budget expenditures had gone unheeded."

The auditor's report stated that Kern was unaware of cost overruns because the "significant expenditures that had been made by the Teen Department outside of purchasing directives and monthly reconciliation processes essentially bypasses existing oversight controls."

In response to the flap over the Teen Department budget overruns, RCC created a new position in August, the director of general programs, to provide oversight of the various RCC programs and budgets. The auditor added the new position "will help ensure that RCC's teen and other programs are operated within their budgets in the future."