Philadelphia controller says city was careless with $135 million project

    Philadelphia City Controller Alan Butkovitz says the city has been sloppy in how it spent funds from a $135 million bond issue.

    Under former Philadelphia Mayor John Street, the city borrowed the money to improve its arts institutions and commercial corridors. The investment was unprecedented.

    In a report released Tuesday, Butkovitz said the city didn’t follow proper procedures for bidding 30 projects. He also said the city didn’t keep records showing that it made site visits to watch over the projects.

    “These funds were handled relatively laxly,” said Butkovitz. “There’s a case of an intermediate organization that was responsible for distributing $1 million, and they only had one person in charge of the distribution.”

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    Though Street dreamed up the program, the money was overseen by both his administration and the current Nutter administration.

    In a letter to Butkovitz, Deputy Mayor Alan Greenberger said the funds were “highly successful” and monitored closely by the city.

    “The report erroneously states that there was no evidence of project monitoring,” wrote Greenberger. “There was continual communication and monitoring.”

    Greenberger also pointed out that the Controller’s office signed off on the funds it is criticizing.

    “Perhaps the single most important fact that the audit report omits is that each and every payment request required the Office of the Controller’s approval,” wrote Greenberger.

    Butkovitz said he has to OK such payments if they are reasonable and there is money available for them.

    “The department is saying that just because they were able to spend money … that somehow absolves them of the idea that they need to be prudent and use their intelligence,” said Butkovitz.

    Mayor Michael Nutter’s spokesman Mark McDonald declined to comment further.

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