Butkovitz Says 311 System Fails to Meet Key Goals

Audit Date: October 4, 2011
Audit Categories
  • Performance
Controller: Alan Butkovitz

Executive Summary

For Immediate Release:
October 4, 2011

Contact: Harvey Rice

Butkovitz Says 311 System Fails to Meet Key Goals
City Controller’s report finds reduction in non-emergency 911 calls
virtually non-existent

Click here to view report

Video: Controller’s Press Conference

PHILADELPHIA – City Controller Alan Butkovitz today released the Report on the Philly 311 System that found the $6 million a year constituent answering service didn’t meet any of the key goals established by the Nutter Administration.

Of the more than 1.3 million calls that came into the 311 System in 2010, only seven percent were monitored. One of the main missions of the 311 System was to monitor all calls received, classify the category of the call and the type of request, and track how much time it took for the request to be addressed and completed.

“There is no excuse for allowing 93 percent of all 311 calls to go unmonitored,” said Butkovitz. “The failure to monitor and code these calls is a direct contradiction of one of the main missions of the 311 System.”

Another core mission of the 311 System was to alleviate non-emergency calls to 911. Responding to the Controller’s Emergency Medical Service (EMS) audit that found EMS units arriving late 40 percent of the time, Mayor Michael Nutter expressed the need for a 311 System to reduce non-emergency calls to 911.

According to Butkovitz, the reduction in non-emergency calls to 911 has been virtually non-existent, if at all.

“One of the goals of any 311 System is to take non-emergency calls away from 911,” said Butkovitz. “In other cities across the country 311 has substantially reduced the number of non-emergency calls to 911, including some cities with double digit reductions.”

Baltimore saw a 50% reduction in non-emergency calls to 911; San Antonio experienced a 20% decrease, while Houston realized a 14% reduction and Denver a 12% reduction.

Other goals of the 311 System that have not been met include the following:
-operators are not available 24 hours per day, seven days a week as promised
-unable to meet its mission to improve city government and the delivery of services
-little effort on the part of the Administration to inform or educate the public about the existence of 311 System.
-no mechanism in place to gauge if citizens are aware of the System’s existence or how many calls coming into City Departments are bypassing the 311 System.

In addition, the Controller’s report found that the 311 System costs taxpayers $6 million a year, not $2.8 million as stated by the Administration.

“Providing accurate financial information and correct statistical data will allow key decision makers in the Administration and City Council to be properly informed about 311’s spending and the success or failure of the system,” said Butkovitz.

“The 311 management and the Administration should use this report and its recommendations as a vehicle to create a formal set of financial and performance guidelines that will accurately monitor the 311 System and help reduce the number of non-emergency calls going to the already overtaxed 911 emergency system.”