City Budget Director Steve Agostini says that the $3.3 million in salary savings claimed by the Office of Inspector General (OIG) this year is not an accurate number. Councilman Bill Green says it’s a wildly inaccurate figure. Inspector General Amy Kurland claims it’s a conservative estimate.
At least we can all hold hands and agree: $3.3 million is not reliable. Maybe it’s $10 million! Maybe it’s two dollars. Who knows. Imaginary numbers give us bad flashbacks to calculus class.
The controversial $3.3 million is the total value of two years' salary for all the city employees who resigned or were fired as a result of OIG investigations. The problem is, most or all of the positions have been or will be refilled. We’d love to see the savings broken down by each open position, how long it has been vacant, the projected pension savings from losing employees early, and the difference in salary between firing someone with seniority and hiring someone new. We’ll get back to you in 2055 when those numbers are ready.
Green questions whether the OIG should be talking about savings at all. “Seems to me the purpose is not to save money by creating vacancies for limited periods of time in order to generate additional dollars for general fund,” the councilman tells PhillyNow. “The purpose of the Inspector General’s Office is to root out waste, fraud, abuse and criminal activity and for that I commended [Kurland] during her testimony. But it seems a little disingenuous to tack on another mission and say you saved money in the context of budget hearings.”
Point taken, but if saving money is not the Inspector General’s primary function, it’s a serious side benefit, and one that seems entirely appropriate to bring up at a budget hearing when skeptical City Council members are trying to claw back the office’s funds.
Remember, the disputed $3.3 million in salary savings is part of $7.6 million total the OIG says they’ve saved the city on a $1.3 million budget.
Council, however, also proposed legislation last week that would continue to exclude themselves from the Office of the Inspector General's jurisdiction.
A number of investigative and watchdog bodies actually operate inside city government. Each office has its limitations, however, leaving oversight on certain areas of government thin to nonexistent. Specifically, City Council manages to largely escape scrutiny.
If only this website had been available years ago; we wouldn’t be in this property-values mess. Maybe this can also set straight the Parking Authority, City Council, Charter School administrators, etc. etc. ad nauseum.