Ill. property inventory lacks basic details: audit

2013-10-31T17:45:00Z 2013-10-31T22:00:17Z Ill. property inventory lacks basic details: auditJohn O'Connor AP Political Writer nwitimes.com
October 31, 2013 5:45 pm  • 

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. | The Illinois agency that keeps track of all taxpayer property does such a poor job that it lists only one of the state's nine universities and omits one-quarter of the Prairie State's 130 parks, according to an audit released Thursday.

Auditor General William Holland credited Gov. Pat Quinn's Department of Central Management Services for reducing state leasing costs by $55 million a year, but even there, criticized the agency for not regularly checking for more efficient ways of using space.

Of more than three dozen agencies listed on what CMS called a "master list" of state property, there were only 1,789 entries — "a fraction of the total," Holland said. And no office spaces were listed for the attorney general, the Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity, Juvenile Justice and others.

In fact, only two sites were listed for the state's flagship educational center, the University of Illinois, none were listed for eight other universities, including behemoths Northern Illinois University and Illinois State. The Department of Natural Resources had 529 sites listed, but 33 parks were left off.

"The record was so deficient that it raised the question of whether the list was in fact the master record," Holland said.

CMS spokesman Mike Claffey said Thursday the agency has all the records about its property — just not in a central depository. He said that would be too expensive.

The review noted that CMS had made no significant progress on an automated system to keep track of property since the agency ended a contract with a vendor hired to do it eight years ago. That was Illinois Property Asset Management, a company at the center of an audit that found significant problems at CMS under ex-Gov. Rod Blagojevich in April 2005, including taxpayers footing a dinner for IPAM and state employees to celebrate landing the contract.

Thursday's audit determined that CMS had reduced its leased space by 26 percent, to 6.9 million square feet, since 2009 and dropped annual rental costs by $55 million through consolidation, renegotiation with landlords and new bids. It credited the independent Procurement Policy Board for its oversight of leases and objecting to those that seemed inappropriate. A reduced state workforce and more favorable real estate climate have helped, too, the audit noted.

But it found CMS officials do not regularly visit leased space to see how it is used or whether there's room for more state operations. The audit reported that one CMS official said site visits formerly were done annually but now are done "on a reactionary basis."

In 17 of 25 lease files checked, there was no evidence of anyone checking the availability of state-owned space.

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