by Adam Andrzejewski
CEO, For The Good of Illinois
March 14, 2011
G.K. Chesterton stated, “The highest office any of us can aspire to is to the office of citizen!”
From 2007 until present, we have led the grassroots Illinois reform movement regarding transparency and accountability. With massive volunteer help, the impact has been huge. In fact, every time our transparency proposal has gone to a board vote, we’ve never lost. Our model of training volunteers and conditioning them for success is studied at the top business school in the nation. Together, we’ve have spearheaded one of the most successful good government movements in state history.
On transparency of public spending, our volunteers have “Opened the Books” on over 50 school districts. We pioneered transparency at the county level. When the first counties posted their checkbooks online, we were the resource for each: DuPage, Cook and Madison. We fought SEIU and AFSME at the College of DuPage, where we won board votes to post the checkbook and salaries online. The Daily Herald editorialized that “these would be the actions the Madison and Jefferson would smile upon.”
In fact, over $2 billion of government spending is now open for scrutiny. This gives public spending scrutiny and taxpayers respect.
Our transparency fight continues. We advocate a full government disclosure standard: proactive posting of all public information. This standard is currently practiced in Florida and the Chicago Tribune has editorialized in favor of it. If this standard is adopted in Illinois, then our citizens would no longer have to file a request, suffer a waiting period, or pay any fees.
On accountability of public spending, we spearheaded the concept of the forensic audit. Picking up the signature plank of my gubernatorial campaign, I authored the Illinois Forensic Audit Act of 2010 (H.R.1057). After a state capitol, Blue Room press conference, we ran a very successful public policy campaign: printed 50,000 “Open the Books” stickers, gave 300 media interviews over six months, collected 15,000 petition signatures, and volunteers sent thousands of phone calls and emails into state representatives.
Last spring, the audit failed in the Illinois House on a roll-call, partisan vote. However, a forensic/recapture audit of Medicaid (HB5242) passed both chambers unanimously with no opposition, and Gov. Pat Quinn signed it. This massive audit of the $13 billion program is one of every four dollars that Springfield spends and is estimated to curtail over $1 billion in fraud.
The term “Forensic Audit” has changed the language of Illinois politics. John Kass of the Chicago Tribune wrote the column that Mayor Daley did not run for re-election because of “two little words- forensic audit”. The day after Rahm Emanuel won the Chicago mayor’s race, he announced that “on day one”, I’ll order the “forensics audit” of city spending. Nearly all Chicago aldermanic candidates answered their newspaper questionnaires on the budget with… forensic audit.
In a state that has gone bankrupt by design, we’ve highlighted the gross financial mis-management. Since December of 2007, the Auditor General can’t quantify the number of programs that the legislature funds. The state has 236 seperate accounting packages that have difficulty sharing information. The number of state fund accounts or checkbooks is in dispute: 600 stated in state budget, 700 on the comptrollers website, and last week the top auditor said the number was actually 900. Illinois doesn’t know the most basic financial information on operations.
Our accountability fight continues. Two significant pieces of forensic audit legislation are currently in the Illinois House. The forensic audit of Illinois pensions (HR31) and the forensic audit of workers compensation (HR131) are two such examples. We helped draft both these resolutions. Both these audits would save taxpayers money and help root out the systemic fraud.