Testimony on Nonprofit Exemption for City Contracting
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Testimony on Nonprofit Exemption for City Contracting

Lauren Cristella - Committee of Seventy
Written Testimony on Bill No. 240379
City Council Finance Committee Meeting
Wednesday, June 5, 2024

My name is Lauren Cristella, President and CEO of the Committee of Seventy.  I am pleased to provide written testimony in support of Bill 240379, which would remove the nonprofit exemption for City contracting.

The Committee of Seventy is a nonpartisan civic leadership organization that advances representative, ethical and effective government in Philadelphia and Pennsylvania through citizen engagement and public policy advocacy. We have promoted, supported and facilitated government ethics and election integrity for more than a century.

We believe that when our government is efficient, effective, and transparent, it helps build trust.  

And democracy works better when we earn and hold trust: in local election officials, in the integrity of our systems, and in each other. The best way to build trust and improve our political culture is to get involved and become a part of the democratic process, and to work toward a government that is as representative, accessible and accountable as possible.

In that spirit, we fully support Bill 240379, which will increase transparency in our government, ensure that City departments are good stewards of taxpayer dollars, and ensure that residents receive the City services they deserve.

Transparency is a key component of good government.  If you can’t see what’s happening, you don’t know what’s working and you can’t push for change or hold elected officials accountable. This applies to how we deliver City services, including procurement and contracting. 

We are confident that the current exemptions that allow certain departments within City government to operate outside standard contracting procedures when working with nonprofit entities were well intended. However, recent reporting and investigations show that change is needed to protect taxpayer funds. We also believe that language contained within § 17-1406 still allows agencies the flexibility they need to protect public health and safety.

How the City handles contracting and procurement has a serious impact on taxpayers, as well as the business and nonprofit communities. The City spends significant resources on outside contracts and residents deserve to know that the City is engaging vendors in a way that safeguards their tax dollars and working with vendors that represent their values. A lack of transparency in this process increases the likelihood of fraud, waste and abuse and the mismanagement of City resources.

While it is our hope that this change will work in tandem with overall improvements to the City’s Procurement Department and contracting processes, this is an important step in ensuring that residents know how the City is spending their tax dollars, how they are awarding contracts, and who has been awarded those contracts.

This reform will help our government deliver services more efficiently and effectively and the Committee of Seventy wholeheartedly supports this effort.

Thank you to City Council for this opportunity and to Majority Leader Councilmember Katherine Gilmore Richardson for your leadership on this issue.

This concludes my testimony.