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‘Have to be some teeth,’ audit chair says of repeated findings at Illinois state agencies

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(The Center Square) – A state legislator says the Illinois General Assembly may have to use the power of the purse to force state agencies to clean up repeated audit findings.

In the past week, a series of audits were released by the Illinois Auditor General. In one, a rare “adverse opinion” was given for the Illinois Department of Natural Resources. The agency had 37 findings. Ten were repeats.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker downplayed repeated findings in some reports.

“You can’t provide a record for something that you’re not doing because you don’t need to anymore because we’ve got computers and other modern conveniences that make it easier,” Pritzker said.

State Rep. Fred Crespo, D-Hoffman Estates, co-chairs the Legislative Audit Commission. He said the audits help legislators hold state agencies accountable.

“Are these things that require statutory changes to make sure that these findings are not repeated. Often times they’ll attribute the findings to lack of oversight,” Crespo told The Center Square. “Well, then we need to ask them, if it’s lack of oversight, what are you doing about that?”

In another audit released last week, the Illinois Auditor General found several repeated findings with the Illinois Department of Employment Security over a lack of proper record keeping of pandemic unemployment assistance programs. The scope of fraud in the program is still not known, something Crespo said he’s been frustrated over for years.

“It’s a lack of transparency,” Crespo said.

Pritzker said he reads the audits.

“We’re addressing them as fast as we can and I pay attention to that and our staff and the governor’s office works with our agencies to make sure that we’re addressing each one of those things,” Pritzker said.

As chairman of the House Appropriations-General Services Committee, Crespo said several years ago, there were repeated audit findings at the Illinois Department of Revenue. He said when asked, the department was “pretty nonchalant.”

“I recommended and we did cut their budget by 15% that year,” Crespo said. “As you can imagine, it’s amazing how all of a sudden they did pay attention to the findings, they made a lot of corrections and we were able to get them their funding through the supplemental. So there have to be some teeth to these audit reports.”

The next Legislative Audit Commission hearing has yet to be scheduled.

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