A confidential draft of a new audit obtained by the Chicago Tribune sheds more light on mismanagement of the controversial Neighborhood Recovery Initiative (NRI), launched in 2010 by former Gov. Quinn. While Senate Republicans await the final audit from the state Auditor General, they note that Chicago Tribune’s report underscores the dire need for reforms throughout state government to address these types of systemic abuses.
The Chicago Tribune reinforced claims that Quinn’s grant program lacked serious oversight and necessary supporting documentation, while spending taxpayer dollars in a highly questionable fashion much longer than originally thought.
For example, the audit showed one private agency received more than $580,000 in state money from NRI yet four months later, filed for bankruptcy. In addition, the report notes a Quinn aide directed taxpayer money to specific organizations, instead of putting the money available up for bid, which is the normal course of action. This, despite Quinn saying reforms were made to the program.
A 2014 audit, which covered the first two years of NRI, showed the more than $50 million program lacked proper bookkeeping and was severely financially mismanaged. The draft audit covers years three and four of NRI and found things did not improve within the program, even after alarms were sounded.
In what was originally touted by the Quinn Administration as a way to curb violence in the Chicago and the suburbs through mentoring and jobs, NRI turned into a highly questionable use and abuse of taxpayer dollars. Many also questioned Quinn’s political motives with the NRI launch, as it occurred right before the 2010 gubernatorial election.
In response, Senate Republicans have introduced legislation this session, Senate Bill 2764, which would enhance the state’s grant-making process by preventing elected officials from abusing their power when awarding grants.