Audit says Illinois agency overpaid contractors

Sunday, June 15, 2003

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. -- Illinois' economic development agency did not properly oversee outside computer consultants, paying them to attend training seminars and for holidays, vacation and sick time, an audit reported Thursday.

Auditor General William Holland also reported that the Department of Commerce and Community Affairs paid $1.3 million for a Web site to a company that went bankrupt before the agency learned how to maintain it.

Holland noted that in the audit period that ended in June 2002, DCCA -- whose name has since been changed to the Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity -- paid $1.94 million to 25 contractors for "information systems" work.

Inadequate oversight can result in misspent taxpayer money, Holland said.

Government agencies routinely hire private contractors for specialized projects but typically don't pay them for fringe benefits such as vacation or sick time.

Holland questioned the payment of about $200,000 overall, including $102,000 to contractors to attend training seminars while they also received $66,264 for their hourly rates.

The audit said the agency also paid for 71 hours of contractors' vacations, holidays and sick time; for hours that timesheets indicated they were "out;" and for hours not substantiated by timesheets.

Warren Ribley, director of operations for the department, said some contractors developing a "customer information" system were given training because it required unfamiliar techniques and computer language.

Ribley maintained that such training is standard in the industry and in state government.

He said the agency has since installed an automated timekeeping mechanism -- reviewed by an agency supervisor -- that requires details about contractors' projects and time worked.

The agency also fully paid a company that designed a tourism-related Web site. The company went bankrupt before state officials learned the computer language necessary to make changes to it. That problem has been fixed, a Holland spokesman said.

Respond to this story

Posting a comment requires free registration: