Op-ed: Philly's Rebuild initiative committed to integrity and transparency
Philadelphia’s recreation centers, parks, and libraries have been in need of revitalization for decades. Broken HVAC systems, water-logged roofs, flooded fields, outdated electrical systems. and more plague facilities across the city. Rebuild is Philadelphia’s chance to address years of underinvestment and to remind residents that public spaces are more than just places to play; they are neighborhood linchpins.
But Rebuild can’t be successful if we don’t hold ourselves accountable to the values of transparency and integrity. That is why we are putting a number of measures in place to ensure that funds are spent effectively, efficiently, and in alignment with the goals of the initiative.
It is within this spirit of accountability that we took the advice from our colleagues on City Council to select the project users who will manage Rebuild projects through a competitive and transparent “request for qualifications” (RFQ) process. Opening up the process will give the public confidence that only qualified organizations will be chosen. The RFQ will specifically state that we will only select project users with a proven ability to effectively manage public funds and deliver capital projects, among other criteria.
We are also maintaining our commitment to using a strategic and data-driven process to select Rebuild sites, ensuring that we focus our resources on the communities that need it most. And yes, that data will be complemented by councilmembers’ intimate knowledge of their districts, which will be crucial in making Rebuild successful.
The data alone won’t tell us that many community members lose their only computer access in the winter when a broken heating system forces their neighborhood library to close. The data alone won’t tell us that the local elementary school has no gym, so the recreation center with a leaking roof was the only place for the school’s team to practice. That insight into who uses these spaces and how they use them is invaluable to Rebuild’s planning process, and we look forward to a collaborative and transparent site-selection process with our colleagues on Council.
Those worried about waste, fraud, and abuse should know that Rebuild is working with the Offices of the Inspector General and Chief Integrity Officer to establish a compliance and monitoring program similar to what the city used to oversee the use of federal stimulus dollars in 2009. We envision the new program would include components such as a tip hotline, a website to allow for confidential reporting of suspected wrongdoing, reports of financial expenditures by our nonprofit partners, and forensic auditing as needed. Importantly, Rebuild will also have an independent, third-party financial monitor to ensure that spending is appropriate.
At the end of the day, Rebuild’s goal is to improve the lives of Philadelphians and make our city a more equitable place for all. As we pursue this goal, we must maintain the public’s trust through transparency and integrity. We look forward to working with our colleagues on City Council to achieve our shared vision for Philadelphia.
Michael DiBerardinis is managing director of the City of Philadelphia.
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