Monday, August 17, 2015

Inspector General: DFSS Needs To Do Better in Distributing Money To Prevent Homelessness

Well, here's a shocker:  DFSS (Chicago Department of Family and Support Services) spent $60 million in 2013 and 2014 funding service providers to the homeless, and they didn't do a very good job of following the money, according to Chicago's Inspector General.

In a report released today, Inspector General Joseph Ferguson said that the audit his agency did revealed that DFSS gave a total of $60 million to 57 different homelessness service agencies, but "found that the department may not have uniformly selected the most qualified agencies to provide homeless services."

Additionally, the investigation by OIG (Office of the Inspector General) found problems in how the agencies did their own rankings.  From the report:
  • "OIG found that DFSS cannot assure delegate agencies that it scored all applications correctly. [...] Our review also found that DFSS did not follow its own guidelines for resolving substantial differences between reviewers’ scores.
  • OIG also found that, in at least once instance, DFSS allowed adverse findings from a program monitoring audit to go unrecorded. The Department uses these audits to monitor delegate agency performance.  
  • Finally, OIG found that while DFSS required delegate agencies to report on their performance, it did not hold them fully accountable for inaccurate reporting. [...] Where DFSS found inaccurate reporting, the agencies were not required to take corrective action to prevent future misreporting.
OIG concluded that DFSS may not select the most qualified agencies and fails to hold agencies fully accountable for all potential program inadequacies and inaccurate reporting. "

Homelessness is a serious issue, as anyone walking down Broadway, or Michigan Avenue, or the lakefront, can attest.  With Uptown as Ground Zero for the city's concentration of social services, DFSS should be distributing money and working efficiently with all the services to help those in need.  Yet, the report also contains this alarming declaration:  "If a delegate agency offers services funded by another organization, then DFSS cannot dictate how and when services will be performed. This can lead to an overlap or redundancy of services in some areas and a lack of services in other areas."

Chicago is nearly broke. Homelessness is rampant. No one can afford to spend $60 million ineffectively, as it appears it largely was. We urge you to let your alderman know you want DFSS to change how it funds agencies that provide services to the homeless and ensure that the money DFSS spends is allocated wisely. There should be no overlapping services, and the agencies need to be better monitored to ensure that they are providing effective services to their clients. The taxpayers, and more importantly, the homeless deserve much better.

The entire report by the Inspector General is here.  The press release is here.

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