Building Permits - 2015
Released July 2015
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We have issued a correction, which can be found here, to the information on pages 12-16 of this report.
We received allegations about building staff offering expedited services for kickbacks and using resources for personal gain, and former staff forging permits and certificates of occupancy as well as using contractors’ licenses without authorization. While the Law Department's compliance unit investigates specific allegations, we designed this audit to review controls over permitting to assess whether permitting complies with city code and ethics requirements. Our ability to complete planned work was impaired because neither the Office of Buildings nor its IT system vendor were able to provide data we requested to assess red flags for staff conflicts of interest and to assess permit intake and plan review turnaround times.
- The city increased building permit fees to streamline the permitting process without assessing the costs services provided such that fees would be no higher than necessary
- As a result, the Office of Buildings accumulated a $28 million surplus through fiscal year 2014, amounting to almost three years of operating expenses
- Despite the increased fees, the overall median time to issue general building permits went from 41 workdays in FY 2013 to 51 workdays in FY 2014, well above the department’s target of 15 days
- The office also lacks controls to mitigate staff conflicts of interest, including acceptance of gifts or relationships that could influence employees’ actions