Consultant’s competency questioned over city project

A computer consultant who billed Philadelphia’s government morethan US$1.4 million (C$1.6) for her work on the Project Ocean waterbilling system has come under scrutiny from the city’scontroller.

The controller criticized local officials for not questioningthe legitimacy of her bills or checking whether she had therequired skills before awarding her two no-bid contracts.

The lack of independent background and resume checks on NewOrleans-based consultant Jeanette Foxworth “was a grave oversight,”City Controller Alan Butkovitz wrote in a report that was issued toPhiladelphia CIO Dianah Neff last month.

Butkovitz said his office conducted a reference check onFoxworth as part of its ongoing review of Project Ocean.

He listed a series of possible exaggerations on her resume,claiming that she “significantly” overstated her jobresponsibilities on several IT projects. In addition, Butkovitzwrote that Foxworth was fired by one of her listed clients inHartford, Conn., for lack of performance.

In a separate matter, Foxworth was indicted in April by afederal grand jury in Connecticut on charges of paying a statesenator $3,000 to help her win consulting contracts. She pleadednot guilty and faces trial in November.

Foxworth, the president of consulting firm Acetech Inc.,couldn’t be reached for comment this week, nor could herattorney.

According to Butkovitz, Foxworth was paid $150 an hour andbilled the city for an average of more than 82 hours per week fromDecember 2001 to March 2002, when she was working on an earlierproject that the city scrapped.

She was also working part time on an IT project in Connecticutthat December, he claimed.

“It seems highly improbable that any person could sustain thosekinds of hours for three consecutive months without any break,”Butkovitz wrote.

He added that city officials and an outside IT recruiting firmthat retained Foxworth should have questioned whether the amount ofbillable hours she submitted was legitimate.

In a written response to Butkovitz, Neff said that neither shenor other workers in the Mayor’s Office of Information Services(MOIS) were involved in hiring Foxworth. “As far as I know,” sheadded, “at the time Ms. Foxworth was hired, the city had nostandard practice requiring background checks for consultants.”

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

She acknowledged that procedures for verifying contractor timesheets weren’t “tightly monitored” in the past. But that process”has been corrected and is being followed diligently today,” Neffwrote.

The MOIS notified Foxworth last October that her services wouldno longer be used on Project Ocean, Neff said in her response.

In an interview this week, Neff said she and Foxworth knew eachother through occasional meetings regarding the billing systemproject. “I didn’t have any reason to doubt her ability for thework she was hired to do,” Neff said. “I do not feel she didn’tdeliver, but whether she worked those hours, I can’t say.”

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