The city failed to collect more than half the littering and quality-of-life fines it levied in 2007-08 and has $20 million in outstanding fines from the last three years, City Controller Alan Butkovitz said yesterday.

Butkovitz issued an evaluation of the collection efforts of the Office of Administrative Review, a unit of the Finance Department. He chastised the office for leaving a total of $54 million in fines uncollected. The bulk of that involves fines due for more than three years, which are regarded as hard to collect.

Most of the fines in the last three years were levied under the city's SWEEP program, which targets trash dumping and other quality-of-life issues. Its prime targets and offenders appear to be trash-hauling companies responsible for overflowing, broken, or out-of-place Dumpsters.

In fiscal year 2008, which ended June 30, more than 81,000 violations were issued entailing fines of more than $6 million. Only $2.5 million was collected, Butkovitz said.

Unpaid SWEEP fines account for $16 million of the $20 million in fines unpaid for three years or less.

In addition, $3.5 million in outstanding fines were for excessive false alarms.

Doug Oliver, Mayor Nutter's spokesman, said the Office of Administrative Review had been working with the Law Department on better ways to collect the fines, as well as outstanding taxes. As leverage, the city will join the nation's credit-reporting system so unpaid city fines will affect people's credit ratings.

Nutter's efforts appear to be working. The top two delinquent companies on a list Butkovitz issued were Tri-State Waste & Recycling Inc., with 215 tickets and a bill of $278,253; and Allied Waste North America Inc., with 267 tickets and a tab of $223,606.

Officials for both companies said yesterday that they had settled with the city this spring.

Tri-State settled for $100,000 and has paid $38,000 thus far. Allied Waste settled for $114,000, a little more than half of what it owed.