proposals

 

proposals

Call for Research Report Proposals 2017 -2018

Wednesday, August 9th, 2017 - 13:53
Author(s): 
Given this significant milestone, the Center reinforces our ultimate mission: to assist public sector executives and managers in addressing real world problems with practical ideas and original thinking to improve government management and leadership. For almost two decades, the Center has supported leading researchers to identify trends, new ideas and best practices—crafting approaches that support government leaders in addressing mission delivery and management challenges with strategies and actions that promote efficiency and effectiveness.

Call for Research Report Proposals

Tuesday, August 19th, 2014 - 10:51
Author(s): 
Since the creation of the IBM Center for The Business of Government over 16 years ago, it has been our goal to help public sector leaders and managers address real-world problems by sponsoring independent, third-party research from top minds in academe and the nonprofit sector. We aim to produce research and analysis that helps government leaders respond more effectively to their mission and management challenges.

A Call for Research into Key Challenges Facing Government

Wednesday, June 26th, 2013 - 8:42
By: 
Wednesday, June 26, 2013 - 08:39
Last week, The IBM Center for The Business of Government released our most recent “Call for Research Proposals” – a guide to what key challenges faced by government will benefit from Center-sponsored reports in the next several years.  The Center solicits proposals that result in reports that have sound research, insightful findings, and actionable recommendations for government leaders and public managers in the following areas of interest – challenges that we consider to be six d

2012 Call for Research Report Proposals

Thursday, September 27th, 2012 - 14:38
Author(s): 
Our aim is to produce research and analysis that helps government leaders more effectively respond to their mission and management challenges. The IBM Center is named "The Business of Government" because its focus is the management and operation of government, not the policies of government. Public sector leaders and managers need the best, most practical advice available when it comes to delivering the business of government. We seek to “bridge the gap” between research and practice by helping to stimulate and accelerate the production of actionable research.

IBM Center 2011 Call for Research Report Proposals

Sunday, September 11th, 2011 - 11:14
Since creation of the IBM Center for The Business of Government more than 13 years ago, it has been our goal to help public sector executives and managers address real-world problems by supporting leading researchers who produce empirical evidence to inform the debates about whether particular management approaches will improve government performance.

Dr. Natwar Gandhi interview

Friday, December 9th, 2005 - 20:00
Phrase: 
"How many cities run universities, hospitals, Department of Motor Vehicles, Department of Tax and Revenue, Mental Health, Medicaid? We are spending roughly half a billion dollar a year to run what I would call state-like services."
Radio show date: 
Sat, 12/10/2005
Intro text: 
Gandhi discusses balancing the district’s budget and the upgrade of the district’s general obligation bonds to an A level from major rating agencies. Gandhi credits enlightened leadership that is fiscally responsible, strengthening the revenue system...
Gandhi discusses balancing the district’s budget and the upgrade of the district’s general obligation bonds to an A level from major rating agencies. Gandhi credits enlightened leadership that is fiscally responsible, strengthening the revenue system and tax administration, and controlling the district’s spending. With a five-year balanced budget plan and the city’s economic growth, rating agencies have praised the city’s financial success and given it high ratings.
Complete transcript: 

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Arlington, Virginia

Mr. Kamensky: Good morning, and welcome to The Business of Government Hour. I'm John Kamensky, senior fellow of The IBM Center for The Business of Government. We created the Center in 1998 to encourage discussion and research into new approaches to improving the management of government.

You can find out more about the Center by visiting us on the web at businessofgovernment.org.

The Business of Government Radio Hour features a conversation about management with a government executive who is changing the way government does business. Our special guest this morning is Dr. Natwar Gandhi, Chief Financial Officer for the District of Columbia.

Good morning, Dr. Gandhi.

Dr. Gandhi: Good morning.

Mr. Kamensky: And joining us in our conversation, also from IBM, is Maryann Magee.

Ms. Magee: Good morning.

Mr. Kamensky: Dr. Gandhi, can you tell us a little bit about the mission of the Office of the Chief Financial Officer?

Dr. Gandhi: Sure. The primary mission of the Office of the Chief Financial Officer in the District -- and it is rather a unique office -- the primary mission of this office is to maintain the fiscal and financial viability of the District of Columbia government. Please recall that in the mid-90s, the District had gone through severe financial crisis, and at that time, the Office of the Chief Financial Officer was created. And again, the primary purpose was to bring back the financial health to the District, and that is what has been a consistent mission of the office -- make sure always that we remain financially and fiscally viable.

Mr. Kamensky: How big is your office: the size of the budget, number of people that you have?

Dr. Gandhi: Roughly 1,400 people work for the District of Columbia Office of the Chief Financial Officer and a budget of about $107 million. The primary focus here is to manage all financial operations of the city within the Office of the Chief Financial Officer, so all financial personnel working in the city, no matter where they work -- Police, Fire, Corrections -- they all work for the Office of the Chief Financial Officer.

Mr. Kamensky: Now, what kind of skills do the employees there need to have?

Dr. Gandhi: All kinds of skills, and I must say we are very proud to have a very distinguished -- academically and otherwise -- accomplished professionals -- accountants, lawyers, treasury personnel, budget people -- all kinds of people that have to do with the finances of the city, they reside within the Office of the Chief Financial Officer.

Mr. Kamensky: And what is your specific role and responsibilities as the Chief Financial Officer?

Dr. Gandhi: My purpose, as I suggested earlier, is always to have a broad perspective on the city's financial fiscal viability. In general, I am responsible for managing budget of $6 billion, but in every case, it is also that we are responsible for managing $6 billion of collection, because the Office of Revenue -- Office of Tax Administrations are within the Office of the Chief Financial Officer. And also, we prepare mayor's budget and follow and monitor expenditure of $6 billion as well, so it's more like a $12-billion operation.

Within the Office of the Chief Financial Officer, we have Office of Revenues, Office of Tax Administration, Office of Budget -- we prepare Mayor's budget -- Office of Comptroller -- we put together our annual financial report -- we have a Treasury operations, we do all the borrowing for the city, we also run the lottery. So anything that has to do with the money is within the Office of the Chief Financial Officer.

Ms. Magee: And Dr. Gandhi, what were your previous experiences prior to being appointed CFO in June of 2000?

Dr. Gandhi: Before I joined the city -- before I became the Chief Financial Officer, I should say, I was the head of the Office of Tax and Revenue from 1997 through 2000, and then in 2000, I became the Chief Financial Officer. Before I joined the city in 1997, I was with the General Accounting Office, the Congressional watchdog agency. At that time, I was one of the heads of the Office of Tax Analysis and Administration, doing IRS audits as well as advising Congressional agencies and Congressional committees on various tax policies. Before I came to Washington, I was on the faculty of the graduate school of business at University of Pittsburgh. And I also worked for the private sectors -- a stint at IBM, old steel plant named Jones & Laughlin -- so I'm dating myself. So I've been all around in the public sector, private sector, both here as well as in India. I also had worked for about six months advising Governor Florio of New Jersey on some budget issues in New Jersey. So I have a kind of a very varied background.

Ms. Magee: And how do you apply these experiences to your current position?

Dr. Gandhi: Well, I think what I learned, say, in the private sector, the accountability on an immediate basis. Indeed, in the District government, my office is primarily responsible to assure whether or not that we have a balanced budget, so there are no doubts about it, no two opinions about it. You know, if the external auditors were to tell you your budget had balanced, than that's what it is; it's a balanced budget. If not, then I would have failed in that measure of accountability. Similarly, bond ratings: you have to be accountable for upgrading your bond ratings, and if it were to go down, then that is an accountability right there.

So things that we do do in the Office of Chief Financial Officer that have this private sector accountability, and that the measures are very clear whether you balanced budget or you did not, whether your ratings went up or not, whether you got a clean audit opinion or not. And these are basically private sector measures, all right?

In the federal government, you know, there is a vast bureaucracy, and having worked with the General Accounting Office, I can also understand the virtues of bureaucracy, having set procedures, processes, documentation. And what we are trying to do is to learn from those established processes and procedures and try to reinstitute them in the District government. So that's what I learned from the government.

And then lastly, from the academic world -- having been a professor myself -- I think the training that I received there, I've been able to communicate in very simple, precise terms what are the implications of a budget that is not balanced, what are the implications of a given expenditure. So you're basically communicating -- or if I were to say teaching -- all the time to staff, to the committees of the Council, to the senior representative from other governments. You're all the time explaining to financial community on Wall Street -- also in the District government here -- how are the finances of the District going? So everything I have been though has been helpful in fashioning the skills that I'm applying today.

Mr. Kamensky: You've had the experience of holding high-level positions with finance and tax over the course of your career.

Dr. Gandhi: Right.

Mr. Kamensky: How has your management and leadership style changed over the time?

Dr. Gandhi: Well, I think it has changed in two respects. One is that now being at the highest level in the finances of the city, you learn to delegate. As you go up in the management structure, the work is done through others, and you should be able to motivate people. Particularly in the government, that is very, very important, because heaven knows, we don't pay our people enough even though we try to be competitive, but still, we can never pay as much a the private sector does. So you have to motivate people, and you learn to motivate, and I think in the District government that is particularly important, because the work is often frustrating, and you want to motivate people.

The second is the level of accountability, particularly in the District, is quite acute. Not only do we have to attend to the needs of the Council and the Mayor and the Congress, but we also have a federal government observing us all the time. And let us not forget the Washington Post, you know. First thing in the morning, all of us in the city government, we look at the Metro section and see if our name is there. If our name is not there, then we say thank God, move on with the day, and if it is there, you know what you will be doing the rest of the day and sometimes rest of the week. So that level of accountability was absent, for example, when I had worked with the General Accounting Office, but now, it is there.

Mr. Kamensky: That's a very interesting background.

What are the plans for financing a new baseball stadium in D.C.? We'll ask the District's Chief Financial Officer, Natwar Gandhi, to explain this to us when the conversation about management continues on The Business of Government Hour.

(Intermission)

Mr. Kamensky: Welcome back to The Business of Government Hour. I'm John Kamensky, and this morning's conversation is with Dr. Natwar Gandhi, Chief Financial Officer for the District of Columbia.

Joining us in our conversation is Maryann Magee.

Now, I know we promised to talk baseball when we returned, but first, Dr. Gandhi, can you give us a brief overview on the District's fiscal 2005 strategic results goals?

Dr. Gandhi: Right. Again, you know, it'd be difficult for me to speak for the city as a whole -- that becomes kind of a non-financial venture for me -- but let me concentrate on the CFO strategic goals. As I indicated earlier, overwhelming concern that we have in the Office of the Chief Financial Officer is about the financial viability of the city. That would mean that we must balance our budget; that we must produce our annual report on time, and having a clean audit opinion from our external auditors; going to sustain our ratings and increase them to the extent possible, and on all these fronts -- on balanced budget, clean audit opinion, annual report on time, improved ratings -- we have done extraordinarily well.

In these days and times when we have rating agencies downgrading many, many municipalities and states around the country, to have upgraded us -- indeed, in case of Moody's, they have given us a double notch upgrade. And just last week, Fitch Rating Agency had also upgraded us with a positive outlook. So this is the first time the District has achieved a clean "A" rating from all three rating agencies. We enjoy currently roughly $300 million of cash reserves, which is 6 percent over budget, which is unprecedented anywhere in the country. So on those key elements, we have done extraordinarily well.

There are still areas that require further improvement. You know, I'm still not entirely happy with our customer service and tax administration area, about the calls that we receive on telephones as well as letters that we receive; we are not as quick to answer them as we should be. We still have to go some ways in collecting some additional taxes from those who are not complying with our tax laws. So there are areas that still need to be improved. However, this is still a far cry from 1997, when I had joined the city, when the city was simply a financial basket case, to today, when we are enjoying roughly a billion, 200 million dollars of fund balance. In those days, we had a negative fund balance, deficits in our fund balance, of roughly $500 million. So this is basically a billion-700 million-dollar turnaround since 1997.

Mr. Kamensky: That's pretty impressive.

Dr. Gandhi: It's very impressive, and great credit goes to the Mayor and the Council and our elected leadership who have done the heavy lifting on those fronts.

Mr. Kamensky: How did you go about doing this? How do you wind up assuring that there's going to be a balanced budget each year?

Dr. Gandhi: Well, first, it requires an enlightened leadership, in the Mayor, Anthony Williams, in our Council, particularly Council Chair Mrs. Linda Cropp, our chair of the Finance Committee Jack Evans, and other Council members. We have a very vigilant fiscal leadership. Second, on an operational level, what we have done over the last several years is to strengthen our revenue system. As I indicated earlier, our revenue system was a joke in the mid-90s. Today, it is rated among the best in the country. Our tax system is rated best among the country, not by me, but by the Federation of Tax Administrators.

By strengthening our tax administration, we have collected a billion, 200 million dollar more in taxes since 1997. One would say, well, the economy has been good. Yes, economy is indeed good, but had we not have improved our revenue administration, our tax collection, we wouldn't be collecting taxes the way we have. So we have improved and made our tax administration aggressive, but fair and equitable. Three, we have controlled our spending. We have been very careful in monitoring where we have agencies spending beyond their appropriations. So we continuously monitor them and try to bring them back within the appropriated limits. So that is why we now have had eight consecutive balanced budgets.

Ms. Magee: You mentioned a projected surplus. How do you plan on using this surplus?

Dr. Gandhi: Ah, that is for the Council and the Mayor to decide. All I tell them is how much do we have to spend; the priorities are decided by them.

Ms. Magee: You've also managed to upgrade the District's general obligation bonds to "A" level --

Dr. Gandhi: Right.

Ms. Magee: From major rating agencies for the first time since Home Rule was instituted. Can you tell us a little bit about this?

Dr. Gandhi: Sure. I think what the rating agencies are looking for above all is how responsible is the financial management of the city, both at the policy level and at the operational level. At the policy level, as I indicated, that we have a very enlightened political leadership that is fiscally very responsible. So the Mayor and the Council deserve a great deal of credit for improved rating. At the operational level, however, it's the financial management -- the Office of the Chief Financial Officer, basically, through its budget operations, through its revenue operations, both controlling the budget, monitoring the budget, and raising revenues -- that assured the rating agency that this government will not spend more than what it gets. Thirdly, we are among the extremely few, if not the only jurisdiction in the country, that has to have a five-year budget balanced budget plan. We cannot shift our expenditure to the following year so that we can balance the budget this year. We have to balance on a five-year basis.

So rating agencies then can see that this government is not shifting numbers, shifting expenditures, shifting revenues to balance the budget in a given year, all right? And lastly, I think overall, they want to see whether or not the city is on the right track economically speaking. And again, we are on an economic roll in the city. City's real property market is extraordinarily strong; we enjoy an almost economic renaissance in the city, and if you walk through the city, you will see cranes everywhere. So given all these factors, rating agencies have been quite enthusiastic in praising the city's financial successes and give us the ratings.

Ms. Magee: Well, it's also very exciting to finally have baseball back in D.C. Along with this excitement, there are currently plans for financing a new baseball stadium. Last month, the Office of the Chief Financial Officer issued a report on alternative financing plans submitted for the construction of the stadium. Can you tell us about the process and how you decide on proposals?

Dr. Gandhi: Right. What the Council had wanted us to do is to look at various proposals put forward to finance the building -- constructing -- the stadium. We looked at those proposals and provided our analysis to the Council and the Mayor as to what is the most beneficial proposal for the city. I think at the end of the day, the city will have a stadium which will be built in the most financially responsible fashion, and I think the city will play ball, as it is already playing. And our team is doing extraordinarily well. Just see what happens; you wonder whether these are the same people who used to play in Montreal.

Ms. Magee: Just recently, you reached a conclusion that D.C. would spend no more than 161.4 million to acquire the 14 acres along the Anacostia waterfront, conduct environmental clean-up, and build infrastructure. How did you reach that conclusion?

Dr. Gandhi: Well, not easily. We have concluded soon that we in the Office of the Chief Financial Officers do not have the technical expertise that is needed to appraise the land, to appraise the environmental damage, so what we had done is to hire the best available consultants on that front. We hired Deloitte Touche, and they put together a very solid report on that front, and we provided that report to the Council, and we stand by those conclusions. Our Office of Property Management in the Mayor's office is conducting its own appraisal; we hope that that will be done by the end of the month. And after that, we simply have to acquire the land and get on with building the stadium.

Mr. Kamensky: Well, that sounds pretty exciting.

So how is the Office of the Chief Financial Officer ensuring financial integrity in the city government? We'll ask the District's Chief Financial Officer, Natwar Gandhi, to explain this to us when the conversation about management continues on The Business of Government Hour.

(Intermission)

Mr. Kamensky: Welcome back to The Business of Government Hour. I'm John Kamensky, and this morning's conversation is with Dr. Natwar Gandhi, the Chief Financial Officer for the District of Columbia.

Joining us in our conversation is Maryann Magee.

Dr. Gandhi, the District of Columbia has what is arguably the most complex government in the United States. How is the District navigating the jurisdictional complexity while facing the limited resources and increased service needs?

Dr. Gandhi: You are absolutely right when you say that we are among the most complex government in the United States. We are a District, we are not a state, we're not a country, we're not a city; we are all combined into one. And consequently, we have the problems of a state, of a city, and of a country. Further, given that we are a district, even though we have state responsibilities, we do not have the resources of a state.

Congress decided that we will not be able to tax all the income that is earned in the District, unlike, say, any other state or city. Consequently, what we do have is a very limited, constrained tax base. Of every $100 that is earned in the city, we can get to tax only $34. Further, roughly 40 percent -- 40-plus percent of our real property values are tax-exempt because of the federal government institutions, diplomatic institutions, and tax-exempt institutions. So what we have is a situation where we have a very limited constrained tax base, but at the same time, we have needs which are far greater than what we can ourselves afford. Consequently, our tax rates are very high; for a long time, our tax policy was that once you find a taxpayer, we never let him go, we keep piling on. Fortunately, the Mayor and the Council are changing and moving away from that. We have a five-year plan of reducing our tax rates. We also have a very high borrowing; indeed, currently our tax rates are very high, comparatively speaking. And our borrowing, our capital debt, is highest in the country.

So we still manage well, primarily because of enlightened leadership that we have in the city with the Mayor and the Council, and also the economy is extraordinarily good in the city. So given all these put together, I think we have been able to manage ourselves well. Nevertheless, I must point out that we still have a structural imbalance; that is, the resources that are needed to meet the needs that we have -- we do not have those resources. And that structural imbalance is about $700 million annually to about a billion dollar annually, according to the General Accounting Office.

Ms. Magee: How is the Office of the Chief Financial Officer ensuring financial integrity while striving to achieve balance between policies, budget priorities, and expenditures through interaction with the Mayor, D.C. agencies, Council, and Congress?

Dr. Gandhi: Well, important characteristics of this particular office is that we enjoy an extraordinary level of independence; we are an independent Chief Financial Office. So we have exclusive rights to provide the revenue estimation for the Council and the Mayor. So we tell them how much to spend in a given year. Once the Mayor and Council decides to spend that money, we expect that they will not decide to spend more than what is coming in. Two, that we would carefully monitor how the money is being spent by the agencies; and we have a right to go in and control the expenditure of a given agency that may be violating its appropriation limits. So given that level of independence and authority, we basically manage the city's finances well.

Ms. Magee: And I understand the District's electronic tax filing services experienced a dramatic increase in its usage this year. How is the government investing in technology to make filing taxes easier, and in general, making its financial services customer-friendly for citizens?

Dr. Gandhi: First, I want to point out that that's a remarkable development for the city, that this city that has basically no systems in mid-'90s -- indeed, we were operating out of the shoeboxes in '97 -- today, we have one of the most sophisticated tax systems in the country. Indeed, we were the first city to offer the tax filing on the web. You can go to the Mayor's website and file your tax return; you don't have to go through IRS.

Two, we made a concerted effort to make sure that citizens have free availability to file their returns on the web. The strategy here is that more people filing on the web, better off it is for them, better off it is for us because there are less chances to have returns being lost, errors being made, and above all, a proper storage of records technologically -- it's done much easier through electronic filing. So we are pushing very hard and heavy towards electronic filing.

Ms. Magee: I understand that you are implementing a system for budgeting, reporting, analysis, and scoring. Can you give us some details about this?

Dr. Gandhi: That is currently under construction, and we hope that we soon shall be able to unveil that. And primarily the emphasis here is that we are thinking in terms of performance budgeting. We already have most of our agencies doing their budgeting on a performance-based budgeting basis; meaning that it is not enough to say that you were given $10 million and that you spent $10 million, but to say, what did you get out of those $10 million? And if it costs you more, say, than Baltimore to pave one mile of road or to process 100,000 returns, then why is that so? So we are not benchmarking ourselves to the best of the municipalities in the country and see how we do. So now we are talking in terms of not only that you maintain the control and spend money within the limits, but going beyond that and asking what did you get of the money that you did spend.

Ms. Magee: How are you working with the chief technology officer on implementing and supporting financial systems?

Dr. Gandhi: Very closely. We have a close collaboration with the Chief Technology Officer. We work in terms of designing systems with them; we work with them in terms of implementation, and maintenance of the system. And that collaboration has proved to be very successful, as can be seen in the successful implementation of our integrated tax system, our financial system, and now, the budget system.

Mr. Kamensky: I've been studying the implementation of performance budgeting across the country, and the District looks like it's making an enormous amount of progress. How are you moving the District's budget and finance plan basically entirely to a performance budgeting approach?

Dr. Gandhi: We are -- basically started with large agencies first, and then gradually move into the smaller agencies. First, we have recast our budget according to the performance indicators, and it is not enough to say that we are going to give you, say, $10 million to do this function or this department. We will say, what are the outcomes of that function or that department, and how can we associate given expenditure to those indicators? And then at the end of the day, we ask ourselves on the money that is spent whether or not those indicators had been achieved, accomplished at the level that was expected. And there are still ups and downs, agency who are not used to doing budgeting on this basis, but we have made great strides and hope that some day, we will come back to you and say, the entire District government budget is done primarily and exclusively on the performance-based budgeting, and that we can tell the Mayor and the Council that money that you allocated to the police, to the fire, to the corrections, have been spent according to those indicators, and these are the results.

Mr. Kamensky: That's really impressive.

Well, what does the future hold for the District of Columbia and the Office of the Chief Financial Officer? We'll ask the District of Columbia's Chief Financial Officer, Natwar Gandhi, to explain this to us when the conversation about management continues on The Business of Government Hour.

(Intermission)

Mr. Kamensky: Welcome back to The Business of Government Hour. I'm John Kamensky, and this morning's conversation is with Dr. Natwar Gandhi, the Chief Financial Officer for the District of Columbia.

Joining us in our conversation is Maryann Magee.

Dr. Gandhi, can you tell us about other processes you plan on automating in the near future?

Dr. Gandhi: Yes. I think as we move towards more and more automation, relying upon the web to do city's businesses, my expectation is that we can practically accomplish most of our treasury operations, most of our budget operations, on computers, on the web. I think the revenue administration has made a great stride, but we can still go a long way. We still have citizens that are habituated to work with pencil and paper, and the real challenge is how to take them away from that and use the computers.

But I still want to caution to you that you will still have an irreducible amount of people who are addicted to use paper and who also don't have access to computers. So that level will always remain in manual operations. But we would like to make as much stride as possible to go towards electronic management. I just want to point out that our website, CFO website, has been rated among the best in the country by financial markets. We have a wealth of data on that website, and using that website, you can look at our operations and do work with us through the website.

Ms. Magee: How do you see technology further shaping the future of the District of Columbia and how it interfaces with its customers?

Dr. Gandhi: I think we are very fortunate to have our Mayor, who is quite devoted to technology, and using technology to improve our managerial operations and the customer service operation of the city. Say, 10 years ago, we had no website; today, as I indicated, not only the financial website, but the entire city website, one of the most sophisticated, one of the most robust in the country. We have millions of people hitting our website on a regular basis to learn more about the D.C., and our expectation -- Mayor's expectations are that a vast majority of the city operations should be done on the website. There's no need for us to stand in a line to get a driver's license or to get renewal of your tag or to file a return. You don't need to stand in the middle of the road on April 15th to file a tax return. All of that can be done, and is being done, efficiently, effectively, on the web.

Ms. Magee: What other significant challenges do you think the Office of the Chief Financial Officer faces in the near future, and how do you plan on responding?

Dr. Gandhi: Well, I think our first problem here is, as we enjoy this financial prosperity as we currently are enjoying, the challenge here on the part -- particularly of the elected leaders -- is to spend money. After all, the city has great needs, and they must be met. So the function of the Chief Financial Officer is to caution how much you can spend; even though the goal is quite worthy, the need are a great deal demanding, but you still want to be very careful as to how much you should spend.

Second, we have to keep in mind that we have a very constrained, restrained, limited tax base, so that should be another inhibition on how much we should spend. As I indicated, we cannot borrow much; we have the highest per capita borrowing in the country. So given all this constraint, to refrain from spending is very, very important, and that is what we need to do.

The second most important challenge that we do have is to somehow amend the structural imbalance that we are currently facing, and have been facing for a long, long time. And for that, we need the help from the Congress, from the federal government, because the District does not have a state; all central cities of America are subsidized by their suburbs via state. State gives a lot of help to cities, inner cities in particular. We have no state, and the federal government is our state. How many cities run universities, hospitals, Department of Motor Vehicles, Department of Tax and Revenue, Mental Health, Medicaid? We are spending roughly half a billion dollar a year to run what I would call state-like services.

So we need help from federal government to take care of those expenditures which are state expenditures, not a city expenditure. So that is a very big challenge, and that challenge can only be met by having the federal government's helping hand.

Mr. Kamensky: That's very interesting. I'd like to maybe shift a little bit to talk about a couple of other things. I understand you host an awards ceremony every year for your employees in the Office of the Chief Financial Officer. Can you tell us a little bit about how you do that and how the D.C. government is recruiting, training, and retaining its employees?

Dr. Gandhi: That is correct; it is a challenge to attract younger, able people to come to work for the District government. I think we have been very lucky -- exceptionally lucky -- in the workforce at the Office of the Chief Financial Officer. And given that we have enjoyed a great amount of success -- indeed, an externally validated success, by rating agencies, for example -- I make it a point to have an annual ceremony where we recognize that accomplishment, and indeed reward our employees who have done extraordinarily well in helping the city achieve this level of financial viability and fiscal prudence.

The city as a whole, also under our Mayor, is attracting very, very able administrators from throughout the country, and the city's image has fundamentally changed over last five, six years, and a great credit goes to the Mayor. The city now is a place to come and work. I think if you're looking for an easy career, lot of money, then you should not look to us, but if you're looking for challenge, worthwhile work, sense of accomplishment, we are the place to come, and I think working -- particularly in my office, Office of the Chief Financial Officer -- I guarantee you will get challenging work. You'll get a sense of accomplishment. After 50 years, when you retire, if your grandchild asks you, what did you do, you'll be very proud to say that I worked for the District government.

Mr. Kamensky: What is your vision for the Office of the Chief Financial Officer, say, five to ten years down the road?

Dr. Gandhi: The vision of the office that I have is to have basically an independent office within the District government, an office that provides numbers, financial information, analysis to our policymakers, our elected leaders. And numbers coming out of this office ought to be viewed as impartial, objective, and an independent evaluation of the problems facing the city. I think a model, if you want to call it that, is provided by the Congressional Budget Office. The Congressional Budget Office provides this level of independence and objective evaluation to the Congressional policymakers. When the numbers come from CBO, people say, yeah, let's take that for granted. Similarly, as I see it, I want to build in the Office of the Chief Financial Officer a relatively permanent bureaucracy of highly qualified financial professional people whose word will be the last word on city finances. That's the vision we have.

Mr. Kamensky: That's really neat. Closing question: what advice can you give a person who's interested in a career in public service -- you've had a background in academia and private sector and federal and state, local government -- especially for those who are interested in state and local government?

Dr. Gandhi: And we welcome them all. All of us, obviously, would like to have some level of financial education, but above all, we are looking for people who are smart, who are coming into public service, and who take their job as a mission and not as a 9-to-5 office work. Work is challenging, but also frustrating, and it would try your soul when you come and work with us. But at the end of the day, you'll feel accomplished.

How does one go about doing that? Well, our Mayor has a website. You can go to the Mayor's website, you can go to CFO website within the Mayor's website, and there are plenty of opportunities. And since I indicated that we have roughly 1,400 people working with us, there are vacancies of all types: in accounting, in budgeting, in revenue administration, in tax collection, in real property assessment, in lottery operations, in treasury operation -- you name it, we got it. You simply go to that website and see what fancies you, what kind of skills you have, and let us know what interests you, and we will welcome to have you with us, talk about it -- and even if nothing over there really fits your particular skill, you should still come and talk with us, and who knows -- you know, for smart people, there is always room in the CFO.

Mr. Kamensky: Well, that's great. Well, Maryann and I would like to thank you for fitting us in your busy schedule and joining us this morning.

Could you share that website with us?

Dr. Gandhi: Yes. It's www.dccfo.gov. Or you can go to www.dc.gov and you can go to the Mayor's website.

Mr. Kamensky: Great. Well, this has been The Business of Government Hour, featuring a conversation with Dr. Natwar Gandhi, the Chief Financial Officer for the government of the District of Columbia.

Be sure to visit us on the web at www.businessofgovernment.org. There, you can learn more about our programs and get a transcript of today's fascinating conversation. Once again, that's www.businessofgovernment.org.

For The Business of Government Hour , I'm John Kamensky. Thank you for listening.