Philly spending is under the controller’s microscope after issues at Office of Homeless Services

The goal is to make sure city departments don’t overspend and move the bill for extra costs into another fiscal year.

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Philadelphia City Hall during the daytime in summer.

Philadelphia City Hall (Kristen Mosbrucker-Garza/WHYY)

As part of an effort to make sure all contracting the city does is done fairly, Philadelphia City Controller Christy Brady has launched a review into how special exemption contracts are issued.

Brady launched the review after an investigation by the inspector general pointed out how the Office of Homeless Services carried some contractor payments into the next fiscal year, effectively spending beyond its budget limit.

The investigation will look at “key areas of contracting to determine whether departments are encumbering amounts substantially lower than the contract amount compared to what was actually spent performing services,” Brady said.

“While the city charter recognizes the exemption for specific departments, it presents the possibility the city could be paying too much for contracts and services,” she said.

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There is also a concern that contracts could be directed to individuals or organizations not qualified to do the work. Such problems could be “putting minority business at a competitive disadvantage,” Brady said.

The exemption from the bidding process “creates an environment absent from accountability and liability,” Brady explained, and could be an attempt to avoid the city’s contracting processes.

The review will also attempt to determine if departments without exemptions have been “using exempt departments to avoid the city’s contracting process.”

The inspector general’s report found that the Office of Homeless Services exceeded its budget by about $15 million, and fell into trouble when it delayed paying vendors with money budgeted for the next fiscal year.

Any review is expected to take several months, based “on the volume of records to be reviewed and the potential findings,” a statement from the controller’s office reads.

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