Add arrest to the long list of risks facing City of Philadelphia contractors who fudge their bids and obtain City contracts by lying on their paperwork.
As a result of an investigation by the Office of Inspector General (OIG), John Hart, owner of Hart Enterprises & Associates, a City contractor and general contracting firm, was arrested and is facing prosecution on ten felony counts of forgery and four misdemeanor counts of unsworn falsifications to authorities. The OIG investigation discovered that Hart Enterprises made numerous misrepresentations in paperwork submitted to the City for five contracts awarded between 2011 and 2012 for work at the Philadelphia International Airport. The OIG also found that the City did not properly screen the paperwork for potential fraud. Hart Enterprises allegedly forged ten surety bonds submitted to the City, and also allegedly misrepresented its financial history and City tax status. The OIG has also recommended that the City debar Hart Enterprises.
The investigation also prompted the OIG to issue a policy recommendation report noting several apparent weaknesses in the City’s contracting process. The report points out that many of the representations made by potential contractors are never independently verified by City officials, allowing dishonest companies to hide negative information and secure City contracts. The report also found “communication and coordination problems” across City departments, which prevent the City from recouping money from contractors for outstanding wage or tax obligations. Among the report’s recommendation are more stringent review of contractor qualifications, better communication in the payment hold process, and independent verification of supporting documentation. According to the OIG, the Hart Enterprises investigation and the policy report are the work of the OIG’s new Contract Compliance Unit, an initiative which is focused on protecting the integrity of the City’s contracting process.
An article in the Philadelphia Inquirer on the OIG investigation and report can be found here.
The OIG policy recommendation report can be found here.