Monday, July 25, 2011

Nobody acted when Dr. Ackerman committed contract fraud, failed to address a trend of hate crimes within the school district, or managed the District into a $629M budget chasm (leading to our latest annual tax increase)...because the test scores were rising.

What is that was due to cheating and collusion between faculty and students

This WILL be discussed at the Citywide Forum on Public Integrity - this Wednesday, 6:30PM at the Free Library (1901 Vine St).

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

We have ONE WEEK left to show up in force and start taking a stand against Public Corruption

In the last three weeks, our city announced a plan to raise your property taxes for the third year in a row to make up for stunning acts of abuse and waste at the School District, City Council voted to retain the wasteful DROP fund (despite the voter uproar), and PHA may settle yet another one of Carl Greene's sexual harassment lawsuits (that were responsible for a federal takeover of PHA) for $500,000.

It is VITAL to come out to next week's Citywide Forum on Public Integrity in FORCE to show the public watchdogs on stage and the members of the media in attendance that the citizens of Philadelphia WILL NOT BE SILENT VICTIMS TO the pervasive CULTURE OF CORRUPTION that has existed in Philadelphia for upwards of a century.

We simply cannot afford it any longer.

Please tell everyone you know - friends, family, neighborhood watch, religious groups, political groups, neighbors, etc. to join us at the forum to TAKE A STAND!

As the flyer describes, this will be the 1st time ever that non-political members of the Federal, State, and Local watchdog agencies will be on a panel explaining how public corruption is investigated, by whom, and how it is best reported. Then they will take questions from the audience.

Just look at the three panelists:

Harvey Rice, who was the state Safe Schools Advocate (until it was nixed by the budget) - who is now Deputy City Controller (auditing the missing money at the Sheriff's Office and School District, etc.),

Pat Blessington, a former municipal prosecutor who led the State Attorney General's Public Corruption Unit - who just got brought over by District Attorney Williams to set up a City Anti Corruption unit within the District Attorney's Office,  
...and last but not least - John Roberts, the FBI agent who was part of bringing down Vince Fumo and put the bug in Mayor John Street's Office.
Many of us here in Philly kind of except corruption as a way of life. I put the guys together to show us how we can put a huge dent in it, especially by organizing the community in a way that acts a a watchdog for the elected and senior appointed leaders we employ.   My only problem of late is that everyone tells me citizens don't want to come to a meeting in the summer, or when there's no election talk. That's what the thieves in City Hall are expecting. I want to prove them all wrong and show them that we the people do care by coming out in force!

Friday, July 15, 2011

Why Should the citizens of Philadelphia suffer annual tax increases and business-killing policies when it's clear that municipal government is completely inept and in need of immediate replacement!

The story is told by Troy Graham in yesterday's "Heard in the Hall" entry on  I've added the article below as it's an important chapter in our city's strggle against waste, fraud, and abuse:

Heard in City Hall: Butkovitz finds 'weaknesses' in annual city financial report
Posted:  07/14/2011 11:14 AM
By Troy Graham @troyjgraham on Twitter
Controller Alan Butkovitz today identified seven areas that could impact the city's ability to properly report its finances.

This stuff is slightly technical for the financial layman, which Heard in the Hall should be considered, so below is the full release from Butkovitz's office. Enjoy.

PHILADELPHIA – City Controller Alan Butkovitz today released the findings from his audit of the City's Fiscal Year 2010 Comprehensive Annual Financial Report (CAFR) that included seven separate conditions resulting in a material weakness over the City’s ability to properly report its finances.

A material weakness is determined to exist when there is a “reasonable possibility” that the process used to prepare a financial report will not prevent or detect and correct mistakes in the report on a timely basis.

“Our Office is required by auditing standards to report material weaknesses so that management can take corrective action and ensure investors  and bond rating agencies of timely, accurate, and reliable financial information for making informed decisions,” said Butkovitz.

The seven conditions contained in the material weakness include the following:
  • continued staff turnover and reductions in the city's Finance Office, compromising the process necessary for preparing an accurate CAFR;
  • poor procedures to ensure accurate reporting of city receivables;
  • lack of procedures for preparing the deposits and investments footnote, which led to numerous misclassified or omitted deposit and investment accounts;
  • insufficient procedures to make certain the City’s Water Fund is accurately reported;
  • failure to obtain timely financial statements from component units included in the CAFR;
  • inadequate accountability over departmental custodial accounts; and
  • failure to automate the year-end closing process for the city's Aviation Fund to decrease the risk for financial statement errors.
According to Butkovitz, over the past decade, the Accounting Bureau’s staff size has been reduced from 64 positions in fiscal year 2000 to 45 in fiscal year 2010, which is a 30 percent reduction.

“As a result, top managers are now being forced to prepare significant sections of the CAFR, eliminating their independent review of CAFR work that would normally be performed by subordinates -- and in turn reviewed by them in their supervisory role,” said Butkovitz. “Consequently there was, and still remains, an increased risk of errors in financial reporting.”

“During the course of this audit my staff found $1.1 billion in errors which were ultimately corrected by the City,” said Butkovitz. “While I understand the budget constraints facing all city departments, it is imperative for the Finance Office to have the appropriate number of staff to ensure that the financial statements and information presented are accurate.”

Along with the material weakness, another finding included the Department of Human Services’ (DHS) ongoing failure to submit quarterly reports of expenditures for reimbursements within the required 45 days of the end of reach quarter. For all of fiscal 2010, DHS had been consistently late in submission of the reports.

“With the city experiencing fiscal constraints, timely reporting of Act 148 reimbursement invoices would have improved the city’s cash flows,” said Butkovitz. “I strongly urge DHS to comply with Act 148 and submit their reports for reimbursement within the mandated 45 days.”

The Controller’s other concerns from the audit report include:
  • The city’s lack of a comprehensive capital asset system.
  • Inadequate inventory procedures for all city real property.
  • Continuing concerns with the operation of the Basis 2 Water Billing System.
  • The failure to revise the city’s Standard Accounting Procedures (SAP) to reflect various automated processing applications and practices currently in use.
  • Non-compliance with Act 148 reporting requirements.
Read it directly from the source, here.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Can a Test Security scandal be the last straw for the Ackerman Administration?

For those of you in the Philadelphia area, the School District has been in the news considerably as of late.  First, Superintendant Ackerman's salary was made public, as she made a base of $348K and over $40K in bonuses last year.  Then she was caught cancelling a legitimate bid process after an award to then give the contract (no-bid) to a friend's firm.  When challenged by State Representatives (the Philadelphia Schools are state-controlled as the School Board was disbanded in 2002), she made a very public racial argument about it.  Then, the news of a $600M budget deficit surfaced at the School District, prompting many voters to demand the firings of the Superintendant and her whole administration.  However, when citizen's groups demanded her head, the Mayor and City Council defended her.


Rising test scores.

Well, it seems that the recent trend of rising test scores at the Philadelphia School District may have been linked to what has been recently investigated in Atlanta, a widespread cheating ring.