Auditors: The District unnecessarily spent over $40 million during 2016 snow storm

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WASHINGTON -- After months of investigating how taxpayer dollars were spent during the Blizzard of 2016, the Office of the District of Columbia Auditor released a report of its findings.

During Storm Jonas, when nearly two feet of snow were dumped on the District, auditors found District officials unnecessarily spent more than 40 million dollars.

Matt Separa, an analyst with the ODCA told DCW50 there were a number of costly decisions made.

“Particularly about $145 thousand dollars were spent on food and about $521 thousand dollars were spent on lodging for employees,” explained Separa.

A move auditors say violated federal law that states only specific employees are supposed to have lodging and meals paid for, even in emergency situations.

“It typically comes down to is this is a matter of life or death or the protection of property or human life?” explained the ODCA analyst.  “The district was not able to provide information as to why each specific employee had a hotel room or every single employee was allowed to purchase food and charge it to the District,” said Separa.

Analysts say there were a number of other glaring problems with the way money was spent, especially when it came to hiring contractors at the last minute.

“The Department of Public Works either approved or disapproved a contract depending on how much they were willing to charge, but we were not able to find any proof of negotiation that took place,” Separa told DCW50.

In a press conference Wednesday, Mayor Muriel Bowser defended decisions that were made in an effort to keep the District running during the weather emergency.

“My expectation is that children will be able to go to school, government will be open, and businesses will be able to do business,” expressed Mayor Bowser.

District auditors agreed, but said there are ways to be efficient and set boundaries on how tax payer dollars are spent.

To view the audit report: http://www.dcauditor.org/reports/dc-spent-41-million-emergency-contingency-funds-responding-winter-storm-jonas-and-could-have