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Audit reveals DC’s $41M price tag for last year’s snowstorm

A man clears a sidewalk with a snowblower in January 2016 in D.C. (WTOP/Dave Dildine)

WASHINGTON — When nearly two feet of snow came down during last January’s snowstorm, area leaders were not well prepared — and that could have cost taxpayers big.

A new auditor’s report said improved policies and procedures could have saved the District some of the $41 million it spent in response to the storm. The D.C. Auditor said the big bill was partly the result of contractors charging the city much higher than normal rates for snow removal and city leaders not trying to negotiate better prices.

“Have we made improvements? Yes,” Mayor Muriel Bowser said in response to the report. “I think what we found is there weren’t very many agreements with contractors in preparations for major storms.”

The report recommended having more retainer contracts in place ahead of future storms and strict enforcement of reasonable price limitations.

The report also stated the city used credit cards to make payments and racked up tens of thousands of dollars in fees, despite having a policy against paying the fees. The cards were even briefly shut off for exceeding their maximum allowable limit.

Additionally, agencies provided food and lodging for many employees, which violated federal procurement law, according to the report.

Bowser defended some of the city’s actions. “I think one thing that probably the auditor didn’t cover is that we’ve had an expectation in the city that we shut down during snow,” she said. “I think that we have to change that expectation”


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