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Philadelphia Controller Says City’s Financial Books Had Billions In Errors

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(Credit: Tim McLaughlin)

(Credit: Tim McLaughlin)

Mike Dunn Mike Dunn
Mike Dunn is City Hall bureau chief for KYW Newsradio 1060. He covers...
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By Mike Dunn

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Philadelphia’s city controller says the Nutter administrations closed its 2011 financial books with a slew of mistakes, errors that he says total nearly $1½ billion.

City controller Alan Butkovitz says his office found numerous mistakes in the books for Fiscal Year 2011, which ended on June 30th of last year.

Add them all up, he says, and the errors total $1.4 billion.  The controller says this does not mean money is missing, just that there’s been sloppy bookkeeping.

“You have to be accurate when you’re telling the rest of the world what it is you claim that you own and what you claim that you owe,” Butkovitz said today.

City finance director Rob Dubow emphasizes that Butkovitz’ criticism is simply about accounting.

“This isn’t that any taxpayer money was lost or misplaced or anything,” Dubow says.  “These are just accounting adjustments that the controller’s office says should be made differently.  And after working with them, they were.”

Butkovitz, though, says the errors could affect the city’s ability to sell bonds.  “The city pays higher interest rates when its financial statements cannot be relied upon as accurate,” he said.

But Dubow rejects that claim.

“We’ve never had any concern from Wall Street that our books aren’t reliable.”

Butkovitz, the controller, attributes the errors not to incompetence or malfeasance but rather to years of shortstaffing in the city’s Finance Department.  The finance director accepts that assertion, to a degree.

“We’ve cut back on staffing, and it does present challenges, but challenges that we can meet,” Dubow said.

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