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Forensic Audit of State Would Save Money

From our archives:
Initially published one year ago in the Springfield Journal Register
Opinion Editorial

By Adam Andrzejewski
April 6, 2010

In October 2007, Illinois Auditor General William Holland issued a report indicating that Illinois “does not have a comprehensive, consistent inventory of programs” it funds on a daily basis. This report highlighted that state government is so cumbersome and disorganized it could not even prepare a list of programs it runs.

This report sheds light on what we instinctively know about the bureaucracy in state government — there is enormous waste, fraud, abuse and duplication that exist — and that nobody is checking the productivity or efficiency to the taxpayer on a routine basis.

On March 24, a group of House Republicans introduced House Resolution 1057, which directs the auditor general to conduct a forensic audit of state spending to identify waste, fraud, abuse and corruption.

It would generate tremendous savings to taxpayers. The forensic audit also represents a clean break from the patronage spending culture of the Blago-jevich/Quinn era. State Rep. Patricia Bellock calls HR1057, “the most important piece of legislation in this session.”

Holland frequently audits the agencies and entities of state government and has a reputation of independence and fairness. This resolution is modeled after the auditor general’s findings, which should be a mandate for reform and immediate action. Yet, three years later this report sits in a desk drawer gathering dust while we stare down record budget deficits and lawmakers contend there is nowhere left to cut.

Speaker Michael Madigan, D-Chicago, should open the books.

Why is a forensic audit good policy?

In 2004, then-Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius, a Democrat, did a “top-to-bottom” audit of state spending that saved taxpayers $1 billion. Kansas has one-fifth the population of Illinois. Time magazine named her one of the top five governors in the country.

In 1991, Texas Gov. Ann Richards, a Democrat, saved that state $8 billion. I’m sure these legislatures said there was nowhere to cut, but these governors focused on the facts.

In March, 2009, the Better Government Association asked the Illinois Department of Transportation for a list of contractors and subcontractors that worked on the Dan Ryan Reconstruction Project. This project finished $375 million over budget with a total price tag of nearly $1 billion. The BGA was told that a list of contractors and subcontractors did not exist.

In September 2009, Holland found that the Illinois Tollway understated more than $150 million in revenues, expenses and assets. Last year, a security contractor was paid $127,000 to guard the proposed site of the third airport in Peotone, which is a cornfield.

In 2008, then-Gov. Rod Blagojevich held a press conference giving an update on a missing check to the tune of $1 million — the check was sent to the wrong address.

Of course, Madigan says the audit “costs too much.” Yet, over a 10-year period, state spending has increased by 39 percent, including adjustments for inflation. In Springfield’s fuzzy math, it’s acceptable to spend taxpayer money by the billions yet when it comes to actually cutting spending the cost is too great. Clearly, there are forces that don’t want an evidentiary trail of state spending pursued by the auditor.

Time is of the essence for a forensic audit of state spending.

Struggling businesses and families all across Illinois have cut spending and instituted controls on their future spending. When does government ever cut or control its spending? We believe waste, fraud, abuse and corruption cost too much.

Gov. Pat Quinn’s proposed tax hike would cost Illinois families an additional $500. Our proposed alternative, a forensic audit, would cost them $5. You do the math.

Speaker Madigan, open the books.

Adam Andrzejewski is a businessman and former Republican candidate for governor.
He is Founder and CEO of For The Good of Illinois.

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