The Department of Licenses and Inspections "continues to jeopardize public safety" by allowing uncertified people to conduct building inspections, according to the Office of the Controller.
A report by the office, obtained by The Inquirer and scheduled for release Wednesday, also found that L&I does not adequately monitor inspector overtime, and uses a computer system that allows data to be changed or overwritten without a trace.
The report further stated that L&I management put up "huge resistance" to inquiries from the Controller's Office, which was compelled to subpoena documents that the agency had not turned over.
Controller Alan Butkovitz said this was only the second time in 10 years that his office had to subpoena records from a city agency. In 2006, he subpoenaed information on capital projects from Paul Vallas, then-CEO of the School District of Philadelphia.
On Tuesday, Beth Grossman, chief of staff for L&I Commissioner Carlton Williams, declined to comment, writing in an email that the agency "has not received the Controller's report/results."
The controller's report stated that "despite L&I's outward appearance of being willing to cooperate, resistance took the form of either responding incompletely, responding slowly, or, in some instances, not responding at all to our requests for information."
As a result, what started out as a mere audit became a "special investigation," the report said.
Butkovitz said in an interview Tuesday that L&I management engaged in "gamesmanship" to avoid sending requested materials. "We've gotten sensitive material from the police and fire departments more easily," he said.
He said he found that resistance "outrageous," particularly since the city had promised that L&I would conduct business better after the June 2013 Center City building collapse.
"Nothing substantively" has improved, he said, adding that proposed reforms are being "neglected."
The report said it appears that two inspectors who had not been certified under the Pennsylvania Uniform Construction Code performed 1,900 inspections between February and August. The state requires UCC certification.
"Employing individuals who do not meet the minimum required UCC certifications outlined in the job specification unnecessarily jeopardizes the safety of the public," the report stated.
The report recommended firing any trainee who does not obtain at least two UCC certifications before the end of his or her six-month employment probationary period.
The use of uncertified inspectors was originally reported by The Inquirer earlier this year.
The controller's report stated that subpoenaed records show L&I inspectors "created the need for more overtime than necessary."
L&I policy allows four hours of overtime when an employee is called out on an emergency to inspect a property while off duty - even if the job takes only 30 minutes, the Controller's Office reported.
The office discovered that in fiscal 2014, overtime costs of $1,026,147 exceeded budgeted costs of $479,642 by 113 percent. In fiscal 2015, overtime costs reached $1,628,803, a 235 percent rise over budgeted costs of $485,000.
The report also described problems with the L&I database, known as HANSEN, and the practice of using so-called holds, first reported by The Inquirer earlier this year.
To ensure that contractors paid fines for minor violations at construction sites, L&I began freezing further construction.
Once a hold was placed in the HANSEN system, inspectors couldn't schedule building inspections because the system precluded further input, The Inquirer learned.
While inspectors were sidelined, contractors continued to do their work and completed projects without inspections.
Williams stopped the hold policy last December, after 17 months. As a result, records of projects put on hold were eliminated, having been automatically overwritten by the computer system, the newspaper reported.
That wiped clean the accounting of projects completed without inspections. This means "people are living in buildings that were never inspected because of holds," an L&I inspector told The Inquirer.
The Controller's Office spoke to inspectors during its investigation and learned that HANSEN appears to allow some L&I personnel to add or delete information at will.
HANSEN also permits comments by inspectors to be overwritten, the office found. "Capturing comments that have been overwritten can be critical during an investigation into the history of a property," the report stated.
For public safety, the report concluded, the computer system should maintain all comments for future reference.