D.C. Blew $4 Million on Erstwhile HD Project

WASHINGTON: The Office of Cable Television in the District of Columbia wasted more than $4 million for the design, equipment and installation of an HDTV production studio that was never built, according to a Dec. 17 report from the district’s Inspector General.

That waste includes more than $3 million of HDTV equipment that was never used and now has the potential for obsolescence.(Image at left is from the report, purportedly showing unopened boxes of equipment purchased for the facility.) The contractor involved cited a “bad experience” with the District government and called the report “shockingly inaccurate and misleading.”

“I found the report to be inaccurate and incomplete and felt it implied things that are completely unsubstantiated and blatantly false,” he wrote in an official response to the report. “As a D.C. taxpayer, both personally and professionally, I find what happened with this project unbelievable and this report is just another unbelievable experience.”

According to the report, the Office of Cable Television entered into a sole-source contract for HDTV infrastructure without reasonable assurance that the contractor could get it done.

“This contractual agreement also violated OCT’s internal operations policy on equipment and facilities usage and was inconsistent with responsible stewardship over District funds,” the report says.

The project was killed by the District, but not before the $3 million in equipment was purchased and delivered, according to the report.

On the bright side, according to OCT, some of the production equipment will be used in another facility--yet to be completed--at McKinley Technology High School in Northeast D.C.

It’s not the first bit of hubbub involving sole-source contacts and D.C. Mayor Adrian Fenty. He’s been under fire previously from the Inspector General for a series of contracts awarded (for parks and playground work) to friends and political contributors.

The complete report on the Office of Cable Television, including responses from the contractor and the OCT, is available on the D.C. Inspector General Web site. -- from Government Video