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Oversight of Police Finances Is Sought

Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.), chairwoman of the Appropriations Subcommittee on the Legislative Branch, said Wednesday that she would like to see Congress give the Government Accountability Office oversight of the Capitol Police’s financial arm.

“I’m not confident that they should continue to be responsible for their budget,” she said at a Wednesday morning hearing.

Wasserman Schultz’s comment came on the heels of news that police officials had “miscalculated” their current budget, resulting in a $5.5 million shortfall. That miscalculation was also present in the department’s original fiscal 2011 budget request, causing Capitol Police Chief Phillip Morse to increase that request by $9 million for a total request of $385 million.

“I have zero tolerance for fiscal mismanagement,” she said.

Wasserman Schultz asked Gene Dodaro, acting comptroller general, whether he thought the GAO could help the police department better manage its money.

“This is an area where we can make a significant contribution,” Dodaro said.

In fact, the GAO is already looking into police budgetary matters. The conference report accompanying the fiscal 2010 legislative branch appropriations bill mandated that the GAO examine the Capitol Police budget proposal after it was requested. Morse recognized the shortfall before the GAO’s review of the budget.

Dodaro said the GAO first received information regarding the budget in January and began asking questions in February. He said his office has had a difficult time getting “complete information.”

“We need to go in and do a lot more deep analysis,” Dodaro said. “I would commit to you here that we can get deeply involved.”

Dodaro sat before the committee as a part of a hearing on fiscal 2011 budget requests. The GAO is requesting $601 million for fiscal 2011, a 7.9 percent increase from 2010. This sum includes a 3.8 percent, or $21.6 million, increase to continue work relating to the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. This figure contains money to maintain 144 full-time-equivalent positions that were created and are necessary to continue Recovery Act work.

Douglas Elmendorf, director of the Congressional Budget Office, was also on hand to request about $47.3 million for 2011, a 4.7 percent increase from 2010. The CBO increased its request in part to finance new hires. The agency would like to hire about 10 percent more full-time employees in order to accommodate increasing demand for analysis of health care proposals.

Tamara Chrisler, director of the Office of Compliance, asked for about $4.7 million, a 6.8 percent increase from 2010. Chrisler said this money would provide the “bare minimum resources” needed by the small agency. If appropriated, the additional funds would be used finance inspections of legislative properties and also to upgrade the agency’s aging information technology system.

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