Annual Financial Report every year since Fiscal Year 2000,
which ended the city’s Control Period and facilitated the
return of Home Rule.
Under his leadership, the District secured several rating
upgrades for its general-obligation bonds from the major
rating agencies, including an A+ from Standard and Poor’s,
an AA- from Fitch Ratings and an Aa2 rating from Moody’s
The District’s income tax secured bond ratings are AAA
from S&P, AA from Fitch and Aa1 from Moody’s.
First appointed by Mayor Anthony Williams in June 2000,
he served through Williams’ two terms, the one-term of
Mayor Adrian Fenty and till his retirement, the first term of
Mayor Vincent C Gray — all Democrats.
It was no secret that Gandhi was strongly tipped to be the
director of the White House Office of Management and
Budget, but was apparently dropped from consideration
when a few months into the first term of the Obama administration a major embezzlement fraud was discovered in the
DC tax office on his watch, which led to Gandhi offering to
resign amidst criticism as to how such an astute and conscientious CFO like him could have missed such thievery.
But Mayor Fenty refused to accept his resignation and the
lawmakers who sit on the committee that oversees DC also
stuck by him with a strong show of support despite this
blemish and prevailed on him to stay.
Since then, Gandhi has gone from strength to strength,
continuing to obtain AAA ratings for DC.
“The latest bond upgrade came last month, a nice retirement present,” he says.
Following President Obama’s re-election, he was offered a
choice of senior administration positions in the Treasury and
the Department of Housing and Urban Development, but
turned them down, opting to continue being CFO of DC.
Gandhi’s story is yet another fascinating metamorphosis of
an immigrant — an immigrant who hailed from a small town
in Gujarat called Savar Kundala, near Bhavnagar, and grew
up in primitive conditions with no running water, indoor
plumbing or electricity.
“I remember reading under a kerosene lamp,” he says.
“There was a school in my town, but in order to graduate
from high school, we needed to go to Bhavnagar, the provin-
cial capital, to take the finals. It was my first visit to a city of
paved roads, automobiles and commuter buses.”
“I remember seeing my first Hollywood movie in
Bhavnagar — a film starring Marilyn Monroe. How can one
“There was basically nothing in this town, and the only
thing that excited me in this town, which was barely a little
bigger than a village, was a small library. And, in this library,
I used to read all the newspapers that would come from
Bombay (now Mumbai) and Ahmedabad, which was about
24 hours late, but to us it was fresh news.”
“The USIS (United States Information Service) used to ha-
ve a magazine called Span and I used to read it and see the
pictures and dream of America.”
His parents were illiterate, with his father Mohandas, “in-
terrupting his studies to go to jail for participating in the
Independence movement,” and his mother Shanta being a
Gandhi’s childhood years were spent working in the little
grocery shop his father ran “as a clerk, but there was nothing
The Financial Wizard
COURTES Y: NAT WAR GANDHI
From left, Natwar Gandhi, then DC Mayor Anthony Williams, former Federal Reserve Vice Chair Alice Rivlin and DC Council Chairman Linda Cropp
before a House Oversight Subcommittee hearing on the District’s budget in 2004.
in that town. So, after my so-called matriculation, I went to
Bombay, because most of the young people went to Bombay
to find jobs.”
Gandhi recounts how with the help of a relative he found a
job as a gofer in a Bombay cloth market.
The salary was meager, and since he couldn’t afford rent, he
would sleep in the firm’s one-room office at night.
“Then I ran into a cousin who said, ‘Look, you can’t go on
like this, you have to go to college.’ When I said I didn’t have
any money, he asked me to give tuitions to his children and
offered to send me to college.”
“That’s how I joined Sydenham College of Commerce, the
oldest commerce college in Asia, and part of the University of
“I lived in a community hostel for four years and I did my
BCom. That’s where I developed the zest for literature,
because Bombay, along with Ahmedabad and Baroda, was
the center of Gujarati literature.”
After obtaining his BCom degree, Gandhi wanted to study
chartered accountancy and come to America.
“But again, economic circumstances did not make it possi-
ble,” Gandhi recalls. “My parents wanted to come to Bombay
as there was nothing in our small town, and they also want-
ed to make sure that my brothers and sisters get educated in
Bombay. So, I had to take a job and again, by my luck, I got a
job at a mail distribution shop in Bombay.”
“I worked several jobs there and my routine was, every day,
I would open The Times of India, look at the want ads and
put in an application. I would walk from where I was to the
Times (building), drop my application there in a big gold
He got a job as an accounting clerk and supported his par-
ents and his wife, but “all the time my dream was to come to
America. I would constantly communicate with my friend
Navin Jarecha, a college friend who was in the US for gradu-
“He arranged for me to come here, but at the time, there
was the Chinese invasion and Morarji Desai (later the Indian
prime minister) introduced the so-called PL480 and there
was no foreign exchange available. So, all my hopes were
But Jarecha didn’t give up.
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