Acting Education Secretary Thomas Gluck has asked the Auditor General to help investigate Superintendent Arlene Ackerman’s decision to award a minority-owned firm a $7.5 million emergency contract to install security cameras in 19 unsafe schools after he said district officials failed to provide him with information he requested.
The district was given nearly two weeks to explain, among many things, how and why IBS Communication, based in Mt. Airy, got the job, how the district goes about cancelling a contract and how the project was funded.
Meanwhile, state Rep. Michael McGeehan, a vocal critic of Ackerman’s contract dealings, added his own clarion call, saying an audit of the school district is “long overdue.”
“The School District of Philadelphia relies on substantial state subsidies to meet its obligation to the citizens of Philadelphia,” McGeehan said. “The District’s failure to provide all information requested by Acting Secretary Gluck raises concern throughout the Commonwealth.”
“I believe that a full and complete forensic audit of the School District of Philadelphia is long overdue. The taxpayers of the Commonwealth deserve no less.”
In his letter to the Bureau of School Audits sent yesterday, Gluck said the district’s report failed to show how the project was considered an “emergency.”
“These unexplained items in the District’s report suggest that this matter should be examined more closely, and in a way that is beyond the resources of the Department of Education,” he said.
Reached via email last night, district spokeswoman, Shana Kemp, declined to comment citing an ongoing internal investigation.
But in a response letter to Gluck, district counsel Michael Davis said that no contract was ever awarded to white-owned Security and Data Technologies, or SDT, the Newtown Township-based company which reportedly received the contract before Ackerman stepped in.
Therefore, he said, the district couldn’t provide documents relating to the its decision. He added that “operative interactions and exchanges occurred orally” between district officials and SDT.
“Since SDT never performed any work on the project, there are no documents that show that the District requested SDT to cease work,” he wrote.
When a district team decided going through a request for proposal and competitive bidding process would take too long, they contacted SDT, a “state-approved” vendor, who submitted a proposal for the project, the letter read. He said IBS, which installed security cameras inside South Philadelphia High last school year, was selected after Ackerman asked whether a minority business was involved in the selection process.