Consultant's Hours, Credentials Questioned by Philadelphia Controller

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A computer consultant who billed Philadelphia's government more than $1.4 million for her work on the Project Ocean water billing system has come under scrutiny from the city's controller, who criticized local officials for not questioning the legitimacy of her bills or checking whether she had the required skills before awarding her two no-bid contracts.

The lack of independent background and r¿sum¿ checks on New Orleans-based consultant Jeanette Foxworth "was a grave oversight," City Controller Alan Butkovitz wrote in a report that was issued to Philadelphia CIO Dianah Neff last month.

Butkovitz said his office conducted a reference check on Foxworth as part of its ongoing review of Project Ocean. He listed a series of possible exaggerations on her r¿sum¿, claiming that she "significantly" overstated her job responsibilities on several IT projects. In addition, Butkovitz wrote that Foxworth was fired by one of her listed clients in Hartford, Conn., for lack of performance.

In a separate matter, Foxworth was indicted in April by a federal grand jury in Connecticut on charges of paying a state senator $3,000 to help her win consulting contracts. She pleaded not guilty and faces trial in November.

Foxworth, the president of consulting firm Acetech Inc., couldn't be reached for comment last week, nor could her attorney.

According to Butkovitz, Foxworth was paid $150 an hour and billed the city for an average of more than 82 hours per week from December 2001 to March 2002, when she was working on an earlier project that the city scrapped. She was also working part time on an IT project in Connecticut that December, he claimed.

"It seems highly improbable that any person could sustain those kinds of hours for three consecutive months without any break," Butkovitz wrote. He added that city officials and an outside IT recruiting firm that retained Foxworth should have questioned whether the amount of billable hours she submitted was legitimate.

In a written response to Butkovitz, Neff said that neither she nor other workers in the Mayor's Office of Information Services (MOIS) were involved in hiring Foxworth. "As far as I know," she added, "at the time Ms. Foxworth was hired, the city had no standard practice requiring background checks for consultants."

Neff wrote that in November 2003, the MOIS instituted a process for qualifying vendors that requires background screening, reference checks "and many other appropriate validations." And 18 months ago, her department began running police background checks on all consultants and contractors involved in city IT projects, according to Neff.

She acknowledged that procedures for verifying contractor time sheets weren't "tightly monitored" in the past. But that process "has been corrected and is being followed diligently today," Neff wrote.

The MOIS notified Foxworth last October that her services would no longer be used on Project Ocean, Neff said in her response.

In an interview last week, Neff said she and Foxworth knew each other through occasional meetings regarding the billing system project.

"I didn't have any reason to doubt her ability for the work she was hired to do," Neff said. "I do not feel she didn't deliver, but whether she worked those hours, I can't say."

Copyright © 2006 IDG Communications, Inc.

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