Officials from the City of Philadelphia’s Department of Licenses & Inspections (L&I) have expressed their profound disappointment in statements made by City Controller Alan Butkovitz related to an audit of L&I, which was released by his office earlier today. L&I’s written response to the Controller’s audit is included on pages 32-73 of the Controller’s Report. L&I urges the citizens of Philadelphia to read the response included in the report, compare the data produced by the department with data cited by the Controller, and base their conclusions on the actual findings.
L&I officials contend that the Controller’s audit suggests that L&I has been deceitful about its processes and procedures, and they vehemently contest such accusations. As the department’s written response made clear, since June 5, 2013, L&I has taken every precaution to tighten oversight of demolition projects in the City of Philadelphia, including:
· Conducting site safety assessments at 442 demolition sites in the week following the Market Street demolition accident. These assessments were performed as an extra measure to ensure that no demolition sites posed any threat to public safety, and the data provided proves that L&I did so thoroughly.
· Strengthening review of demolition permit applications. L&I has implemented all of the new standards created by the Mayor’s Executive Order, which are now part of City Council’s new demolition legislation. L&I can confidently say that no contractors without the required experience, insurance, and site safety plans are receiving demolition permits. This is evidenced in the detailed data attached to the department’s response.
· Inspecting all demolition permits in keeping with new requirements. L&I did not miss or skip inspections as implied in the Controller’s comments. The department conducts all code-required inspections, plus additional site safety inspections to ensure public protection.
· A planned new database with increased reporting capabilities. The Department is the first to acknowledge that its data system is antiquated and in need of upgrades to improve transparency. L&I has already begun to change this system with Project eCLIPSE, which will revolutionize the way it performs inspections. In the meantime, it must be made clear that the department’s levels of supervisory review offer all necessary protections.
· Additional training for all inspectors. L&I makes the education and training of its inspectors a priority and will further expand demolition training with additional funding in FY15. All of the department’s inspectors are fully certified.
L&I officials made it clear to the Controller’s Office that the present data system is difficult to understand, and because of this, offered the Controller extensive support in navigating the data. Unfortunately the Controller’s Office chose to interpret the data without L&I support, which led them to draw conclusions that created misconceptions in their audit. L&I participated in an exit interview with the Controller’s Office on May 14th before the audit was released, and staff from the Controller’s office appeared pleased with the progress the department has made thus far.
Again, L&I strongly encourages all citizens to read the department’s response to the Controller’s audit to understand the department’s processes and procedures regarding demolition inspections. The enforcement of L&I codes is a responsibility that is taken extremely seriously and all L&I employees constantly strive to innovate, expand, and do better – L&I officials believe they are well on their way to enhancing safety for those who live, work and play in the City of Philadelphia.