Audit Reveals Mismanagement of NRI
This week a report from the Auditor General stole headlines as it revealed “pervasive deficiencies” in the “implementation and management of the Neighborhood Recovery Initiative.” Senate Republicans, including State Senator Bill Brady, have been sounding the alarm about this program for years and now they’re calling for further investigations into potentially criminal use of taxpayer dollars.
A close look at the Feb. 2014 audit of the Illinois Violence Prevention Authority's Neighborhood Recovery Initiative (NRI) and a related audit suggests potential criminal activity could merit additional review by the U.S. Attorney.
Critics labeled the program “a political slush fund” and suggested that the audits contained information that could easily lead to indictments.
For many, it was reminiscent of the negative audits that were released during the era of now-imprisoned former Gov. Rod Blagojevich.
According to the Auditor General, the $54.55 million NRI program was “hastily implemented” with “pervasive deficiencies in Illinois Violence Prevention Authority's (IVPA) planning, implementation, and management.”
The audits also found Governor Quinn broke state law when he shuffled funds among various accounts in order to circumvent the legislature’s authority to annually appropriate General Fund dollars.
In effect, the Governor was able to create a non-appropriated slush fund of $91 million that he could use in future fiscal years without having to request that the General Assembly re-appropriate those dollars. Approximately $45 million was eventually given to the Neighborhood Recovery Initiative. (IVPA Compliance Audit, for two years ended June 30, 2012; pages 10-14; Released 2/25/14. Finding 12-1.)
Additionally, the audit noted financial reporting mechanisms that would have monitored the spending of the grant dollars were “ineffectively implemented…reducing their usefulness.” Notably, upwards of 78 percent of NRI communities failed to maintain contractually-required caseloads, suggesting that some employees could have been paid for completing little or no work.
More information on the controversial Neighborhood Recovery Initiative can also be found online, including:
•The Neighborhood Recovery Initiative (NRI) Audit.
•The compliance audit of the Violence Prevention Authority.
•The 2012 4-month CNN investigation on the NRI.
Keeping Students Safe
The Illinois Senate approved legislation on February 27 that aims to ensure that students are safe in the classroom. SB 2747 creates the School Security and Standards Task Force.
Proponents of the bill say that increasing levels of violence at schools throughout the United States is proof that now is the time to act to ensure our students and teachers are safe. A similar piece of legislation passed the legislature last year, but the Governor did not make appointments to the task force in time and the members were not able to complete their work before the legislation’s Jan. 2, 2014, sunset date. This legislation ensures the task force’s work will be completed.
Bills Move in Senate Committees
A variety of bills passed Senate Committees this week. Click here to keep track of all the action.