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CDOT appears to stonewall inspector general on red light cams

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

* From a press release…

The City of Chicago Office of Inspector General (IGO) has completed an audit of the City’s Red-Light Camera (RLC) program.

The audit found that Chicago Department of Transportation (CDOT) was unable to substantiate its claims that the City chose to install and maintain red-light cameras at intersections with the highest angle crash rates in order to increase safety.

But we’ll see if this language from the IG’s letter actually features prominently in news coverage…

We found no evidence of this program being managed in a manner designed specifically to maximize revenue.

* Even so, the report is replete with references to CDOT’s inability or refusal to supply information. For instance

The City paid Redflex a total of $106,271,823 through March 8, 2013, but CDOT did not have documentation breaking out purchase, maintenance, repair, and other costs by RLC location. CDOT maintains no records of the purchase, maintenance, operation, repair, and additional costs for each individual camera.17 Therefore, the IGO was not able to determine (nor could CDOT otherwise explain) how much of the $106,271,823 paid to Redflex was associated with each of these cost categories. Without this information, CDOT could not answer basic cost questions such as:

    * What did the equipment cost?
    * How much was spent on repairs at each installation?
    * Should CDOT have replaced the equipment or repaired it?
    * Is the RLC program cost effective?

Go read the whole thing.

- Posted by Rich Miller        


19 Comments
  1. - wordslinger - Tuesday, May 14, 13 @ 10:31 am:

    Same as it ever was. The city brings in these inspector generals to great fanfare about “reform and transparency. Then, they cut their legs off and stonewall.

    There’s only one true inspector general in the city and it’s the U.S. Attorney for the Northern District.


  2. - RonOglesby - Tuesday, May 14, 13 @ 10:34 am:

    This is good:


    We found no evidence of this program being managed in a manner designed specifically to maximize revenue.

    This on the other hand is sickening:

    —-
    Without this information, CDOT could not answer basic cost questions such as:

    * What did the equipment cost?
    * How much was spent on repairs at each installation?
    * Should CDOT have replaced the equipment or repaired it?
    * Is the RLC program cost effective?
    —-

    Really? you run a program but cant answer those basic programs? Bad gov there.


  3. - walkinfool - Tuesday, May 14, 13 @ 10:46 am:

    It looks more like bad government, than stonewalling.

    The City doesn’t require important information from the vendor, and so cannot provide it.


  4. - dupage dan - Tuesday, May 14, 13 @ 10:51 am:

    It’s Groundhog Day in Chicago. How do we know? Cause it looks like every other day.


  5. - carbaby - Tuesday, May 14, 13 @ 11:45 am:

    That’s essentially like giving a blank check to a vendor and telling them to fill it in. There is really no way to have any accountability. It’s only amusing that people think that’s how all gov’t is run and don’t understand all the in’s and out’s of contracts and procurement. But in this case it really is being run as people think. All I can say is wow.


  6. - Chavez-respecting Obamist - Tuesday, May 14, 13 @ 12:23 pm:

    Perri Small was on Chicago Tonight last night pointing out there are more cameras at intersections on a little strip of South State (or possibly Michigan Av) than on the entire North Side.

    But yeah, they’re about people not stopping at red lights.


  7. - James - Tuesday, May 14, 13 @ 12:40 pm:

    I really appreciate IG Ferguson’s work. I admire Rahm Emanuel’s ability to get things done, but I trust IG Ferguson to give a truthful analysis of any subject he investigates. It’s the person that deserves the credit here, not the IG position, which will probably someday be filled by a mayoral supporter.


  8. - Anonymous - Tuesday, May 14, 13 @ 12:56 pm:

    = It’s the person that deserves the credit here, not the IG position,…=

    I read the summary of the Auditor’s findings provided via the link. Sounds an awful like those found in the business world, so it makes me wonder what folks like Demoralized (not to pick on him) would say re: the way business v. government “works.”

    I hope the story gets covered. Not to lay blame, but to give John and Jane Q. Public some hope that valid audits do occur so that corrective action may be taken.


  9. - Anonymous - Tuesday, May 14, 13 @ 12:58 pm:

    Sorry, I should have expanded upon that last sentence:

    “Not to lay blame, but to give John and Jane Q. Public some hope that valid audits do occur so that corrective action may be taken to benefit both the governmental entity and the Citizens it serves.”


  10. - Anonymous - Tuesday, May 14, 13 @ 1:08 pm:

    But then again, it also makes me wonder why procedures to help ensure that the questions asked could be answered hadn’t been implemented/used; why baselines to facilitate measurement of results hadn’t been set and maintained; and why “internal” project audits hadn’t being conducted throughout the project life cycle. It would seem that if they had, the results of the formal audit would have been better.


  11. - Anonymous - Tuesday, May 14, 13 @ 1:11 pm:

    “…hand’t BEEN conducted throughout the project life cycle.”

    (Sheesh! It’s like someone swapped my keyboard out with Ghost’s today.)


  12. - Demoralized - Tuesday, May 14, 13 @ 1:11 pm:

    @Anonymous:

    Auditor opinions follow similar guidelines whether in the private or public sector. My contention of government vs. the business world has always been in the context of those who believe government can be run like a business. It can’t. I’m not making a comentary on whether it should or not, I’m simply saying that the quirks of government don’t allow it to be run like a business. You have to work within the system otherwise you won’t get much accomplished. I’m not sure if that is what you were getting at or not with your reference to me. And I know you weren’t picking on me.


  13. - Anonymous - Tuesday, May 14, 13 @ 1:25 pm:

    =And I know you weren’t picking on me. =

    Thank you for the trust and the response, Demoralized. I suppose that any further questions–and lack of knowledge I have re: the way government operates, is somehow grounded in your statement that “You have to work within the system otherwise you won’t get much accomplished.”

    All projects have a political context and constraints that need to be identified and “dealt” with. And, obviously, merit-based environments with published procedures that are driven by–and most importantly, supported by “top management” are the easiest (and some would argue, best) to work in.


  14. - Anonymous - Tuesday, May 14, 13 @ 1:30 pm:

    And I’ll just add that if my speculation regarding the efficacy of merit-based environments and published procedures carry any water at all, I will say that I have worked in highly-political environments where same have been implemented successfully using a “bottom up” approach.

    It’s not an easy task and obviously has inherent risks, but its do-able. And, when done using the right approach, “Senior Management” benefit most.


  15. - Left Leaner - Tuesday, May 14, 13 @ 1:56 pm:

    This is old Daley administration rearing its ugly head. Like with the parking meter deal, Emanuel has a chance here to take this seriously and take relatively simple steps to fixing this going forward. He needs some additional feathers in his cap for his re-election bid after the school closing debacle. And if he doesn’t, I see some commercials in our future with this all over them.


  16. - Anonymous - Tuesday, May 14, 13 @ 1:59 pm:

    =This is old Daley administration rearing its ugly head.=

    That’s just like blaming Bush for everything. Good business people do NOT do that.


  17. - Anonymous - Tuesday, May 14, 13 @ 2:02 pm:

    They fix things in accordance with their objectives–and then take the credit for it.


  18. - Anonymous - Tuesday, May 14, 13 @ 2:10 pm:

    And, I do realize that in some environments “their objectives” is a loaded term. I suppose I should have said “in accordance with their FORMAL objectives.”


  19. - RNUG Fan - Tuesday, May 14, 13 @ 3:07 pm:

    Where are the police powers to void this contract?


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