A new audit from City Controller Alan Butkovitz questions City Council's financial management, noting that the body doesn't always follow contracting rules and still lacks formal payroll or personnel procedures.

Released yesterday, the audit, which covers July 1, 2007, to June 30, 2009, says that on at least two occasions, Council paid consultants for services without entering formal contract agreements as required by city law.

Because the payments were for sums less than $30,000, Council did not need to seek competitive bids, said First Deputy Controller Harvey Rice. But he said Council was required to pay for the services using a purchase order, which would be publicly disclosed and would require the vendor to follow city contracting rules.

The payments were $5,000 to the Institute for the Study of Civic Values for a study of the federal stimulus program and about $2,500 to CAPM Group - a one-man West Philly consulting operation run by Curtis Cephas - for research and newsletter work done for Councilman Curtis Jones Jr.

Council spokesman Anthony Radwanski said the payments were made without contracts because they were small amounts. Council did not formally respond in writing to the audit.

The audit recommends that Council pay for services using the proper procedure and suggests spot-checking payroll records for errors. The report notes that Council has not remedied concerns raised by the controller, namely that the body has no formal personnel or payroll processes and does not do background checks on new employees.

Radwanski said that with 17 authority figures, it is hard for Council to put a centralized control in place.

Ellen Kaplan, of the watchdog group Committee of Seventy, said the audit raised troubling questions - among them, why Council hadn't provided a formal response to the issues raised.

"My main concern is that Council has decided that no formal response to the proposal is necessary," said Kaplan. "Our concern is that the findings are going to be ignored and not taken seriously."