After conducting a “public integrity review” of the Building Inspection Department (DBI) licensing and inspection processes, motivated by the need to root out ministerial fraud and a history of inappropriate activity , the San Francisco Comptroller’s Office identified the following weaknesses in DBI’s systems, processes and controls:
1. The Ministry’s authorization and inspection system lacks system controls to ensure that complete data is entered into the system and to prevent inappropriate after-the-fact changes to recorded inspection records. Other review and inspection milestones and policies to manage these changes are patchy and insufficiently monitored.
2. The ministry does not use available data to track, monitor and investigate certain “red flag” activities, such as out-of-area inspections, inappropriately expedited review of project plans, or approvals by those who do not. are not allowed to do so. so.
3. The review and investigation of complaints or high risk activities is not standardized across the department and in some cases inappropriately assigned to units to review their own work initially performed.
4. The financial penalties for non-compliance with the code appear in some cases to be too low and do not constitute an adequate incentive to comply with the requirements established by the City.
5. These weaknesses in internal control, combined with a model of poor ethical management under the former director, [Tom Hui,] supported a negative “tone at the top” during his tenure.
And with regard to the preliminary recommendations of the Office for Ministerial Reform, “to prevent nepotism, cronyism and corruption in the future”:
1. Foster an ethical organizational culture by ensuring there is an ethical tone at the top and promoting compliance with ethical disclosure laws and conduct.
2. Create a strong reporting and compliance program to identify risks and ensure consistent application of its strong ethical rules and policies.
3. Ensure public transparency, consistency and adequate internal controls in the recording and modification of data in its files.
4. Use existing data to conduct monitoring that will help identify the risks of fraud and abuse.
5. Consider requiring plan reviewers and inspectors to certify compliance with municipal conflict of interest rules to deter corruption, nepotism and favoritism.
6. Provide more awareness and education to the public on its internal permitting and inspection requirements and processes to help the public identify appropriate and inappropriate practices when interacting with the ministry.
In addition, a review of the fees and penalties that the ministry is authorized to charge for non-conforming construction was also recommended, “to determine whether they are severe enough to effectively deter malpractice” or need to be increased, in particularly with regard to the minor penalty for unauthorized work which is deemed to have “exceeded the scope of an approved permit” in relation to the mere fact of having been unauthorized. We will keep you informed and connected.