Official Statement from UAC Board Chair in response to Inquirer Article

Date: 
December 11, 2012

IN ALL FAIRNESS, WE HAVE A RIGHT TO KNOW

Official Statement in Response to 12/10/12 Article in Inquirer

For the last month, the Urban Affairs Coalition (UAC) has been the subject of two articles in the Philadelphia Inquirer, which we believe has put our reputation and credibility into question.  The nature of these articles has been to characterize the Coalition’s grants management process as a political endeavor subtracting the context of the valuable community work that we do in the interest of over 150,000 low-income Philadelphians annually.  

The basis of these articles is a confidential report commissioned by Commonwealth officials that was leaked to the Inquirer, which calls into question a small fraction of the grants managed by UAC on behalf of the Department of Community and Economic Development (DCED). Despite repeated requests to the Commonwealth and the Inquirer’s statement in their November 21 Editorial that the report should be released, this is a report that we have never seen and to which we cannot respond directly.

Over the last 43 years, UAC has been the home of innumerable programs aimed at the common good and collective empowerment of our most disenfranchised residents and neighborhoods, which informs our motto of “driving change from the ground up”.  Whether it has been jobs programs for youth and adults, entrepreneurship training, community development work, free tax programs and so much more, our very existence has been defined by empowering those with the least power and helping them to climb the economic ladder in spite of the multiple barriers to success that they may face.

UAC is an open and transparent organization.  The Coalition has given government at all levels a trustworthy, professional vehicle supporting local efforts and community leaders to do the work of lifting up the community.  The Coalition’s commitment to this work comes from a belief that people and communities matter and that an engaged citizenry can lead itself to better outcomes for the community.

UAC has always believed that government and the taxpayers have the right to know how public dollars are spent.  Since 1999, the Coalition has managed over $390 million from a variety of different sources, including city, state, and federal government as well as from philanthropic institutions.   In this period, we managed over $28 million in DCED funds, which constituted 6% of our total funding. For those who have read these articles, the funds in question constitute a small percentage of the monies that UAC has managed over a fairly long period of time.

In over two decades of work with DCED, UAC cooperated fully with the agency’s policies and procedures as a matter of standard business practice and an effective grants management approach; this was in the best interest of all parties.  To this end, we met annually with DCED leadership to ensure that we worked in concert with DCED’s rules, in partnership to resolve any issues, and most importantly, to ensure full compliance.  DCED grants managed by UAC are audited by a reputable independent audit firm and submitted to the agency for approval and closeout. As a result, UAC has had a 100% successful closeout/audit rate prior to this administration. For the grants we have submitted for approval and closeout, UAC’s staff and our auditors had no reason to believe that any of the activities performed under the grants were outside of the agreed upon framework of the grants or standard agreed upon policies and procedures.

As a good steward of public funds, funders frequently ask UAC to take on projects that they would like to fund because of our ability to work effectively with a range of entities and our grants management capacity.  We have every expectation that such projects are fully vetted.

As it pertains to the report that the Inquirer has used as source material, it appears as if the report was written prior to the submission of additional substantive documentation by UAC to the Commonwealth. We have given the Commonwealth any and all information that they have requested, provided additional information that we saw as relevant, and will continue to do so. One should view the Inquirer’s article as drawing conclusions based on information that may or may not be complete.  

We are confident in our management in these grants and we are eager to discuss any aspects of any grant that we have managed.  However, in order to do that, we ask the Commonwealth and the Inquirer to give us the audit report and all other relevant documents pertaining to the matter at hand.  

It is the Commonwealth’s refusal to release the report to date that is so deeply concerning.  Yet, it was leaked to the Inquirer.

As the Inquirer is currently in the possession of the report and stated in its own November 21 editorial that it ought to be made public, we ask -- how can the paper continue to pen articles without releasing these documents to the Coalition?

So, in the interest of fairness and transparency, we urge the Inquirer to either give us the report or out of journalistic integrity stop penning articles about the subject until the Commonwealth provides it to us. By failing to take one of these two high roads, it leaves one to question the intent of the articles that the Inquirer continues to write.

Grant Rawdin, Esq.
Chair, UAC Board of Directors

###

Media Contact:
William R. Miller, IV
Ross Associates
Phone: 215-772-9325
Email: 
wrmilleriv@rossassociates.biz