Rhynhart Blasts Philly Animal Control for “Wasteful” Spending, Misuse of Grant Funds

ACCT used money earmarked for a new adoption center for operating expenses, according to the Controller’s Office.

acct philly

The ACCT building at 111 W. Hunting Park Avenue in North Philadelphia. | Photo via Google Maps

A report released by City Controller Rebecca Rhynhart on Wednesday accuses the city’s Animal Care and Control Team of “wasteful” spending practices, including the misuse of grant funding earmarked for a new pet adoption center.

ACCT, which operates under a $4.2 million contract with the city, works to provide shelter and care for homeless, abandoned and abused animals, as well as address wildlife and raccoon complaints, animal ordinance complaints, dog bites, dog licensing, spade and neutering services and more.

According to Rhynhart, the organization mismanaged a $1 million Petco Foundation grant — specifically a $750,000 restricted fund portion of the grant — that was to be put toward building the new facility. Instead, per the report, ACCT used all of the money to pay for its operating expenses, including payroll.

Rhynhart said on Wednesday that her office’s investigation was prompted by a tip regarding the use of the restricted funds. But during the investigation, her office also noted “several other problematic practices in ACCT’s financial management.”

The Controller’s Office says it made the following findings:

  • ACCT does not have a policy governing deposits for cash, and the procedures for tracking cash donations are not followed. Staff members told Rhynhart’s office that in some instances cash deposits would be used to pay expenses. For those reasons, she said, the “true amount of donations” received or used by the organization is unknown.
  • ACCT does not have a petty cash account, but staff used funding from the operating account to write more than $9,300 worth of “petty cash” checks between March 2014 and August 2017.
  • The Managing Director’s Office, which oversees ACCT, “fails in its responsibilities to ACCT” by failing to properly review ACCT’s financial documents.
  • The office flagged what it called “wasteful” spending practices, including:
    • That the organization spent nearly $20,000 to pay for moving expenses for new hires, including $4,000 for an employee who never relocated from Texas from Philadelphia to work for ACCT.
    • That ACCT regularly reimbursed employee expenses that were submitted without proper documentation.’

Neither ACCT nor the Managing Director’s Office immediately responded to requests for comment on Thursday.

“The waste and mismanagement of funds in this case is troubling,” Rhynhart said in a statement. “As City Controller, my goal is to make government run effectively and efficiently, and it’s clear that ACCT is not meeting the standards of its contract with MDO or its requirements for the Petco Foundation grant.”

The Controller’s Office offered a number of recommendations for ACCT, including the creation of more streamlined financial accounts with clear policies and procedures and a transparent hiring policy, as well as better management of petty cash and a reassessment of ACCT’s organizational structure.

“It’s my hope that this review serves as a wakeup call and that moving forward, ACCT will be better stewards of taxpayer and external funds,” Rhynhart said.

You can read the full report here.