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Wednesday, October 20, 2010

A peek at stimulus spending in Illinois

Byron York has the goods on a report about one program of stimulus spending in Illinois that looks at the weatherization program. You know - this is part of an effort to fund supposedly green jobs by weatherizing homes. In Illinois the federal government paid $242 million to weatherize 27,000 homes. Close to a third of that money went to a Chicago-based organization, the Community and Economic Development Association of Cook County. And the results found by the Department of Energy's inspector general on that spending are not pretty.
"Our testing revealed substandard performance in weatherization workmanship, initial assessments, and contractor billing," the inspector general report says. "These problems were of such significance that they put the integrity of the entire program at risk."

Department inspectors visited 15 homes that were being weatherized by CEDA and paid for by stimulus funds. "We found that 14 of the 15 homes…failed final inspection because of poor workmanship and/or inadequate initial assessments," the report says. In eight of the homes, CEDA had come up with unworkable and ineffective plans -- like putting attic insulation in a house with a leaky roof. In ten of the homes, "contractors billed for labor charges that had not been incurred and for materials that had not been installed." The report calls billing problems "pervasive," with seven of ten contractors being cited for erroneous invoicing. And the department found "a 62 percent final inspection error rate" when CEDA inspectors reviewed their own work.

The work was not just wasteful; it was dangerous. Department inspectors found "heat barriers around chimneys that had not been installed, causing fire hazards." They found "a furnace [that] had not been vented properly." The found "a shut-off valve that had not been installed on a gas stove." And they found "carbon monoxide detectors, smoke alarms and fire extinguishers had not been installed as planned."

And then there was fraud. At ten of the 15 homes visited, Department inspectors found examples in which "a contractor had installed a 125,000 BTU boiler, but had billed CEDA for a 200,000 BTU boiler costing an estimated $1,000. more." Another contractor "billed for almost four times the amount of drywall actually installed." And another "installed 12 light bulbs but had billed CEDA for 20." (The Department found that CEDA paid almost three times the retail price for each light bulb.) "Billing issues appeared to be pervasive," the report concludes.
Either this one program in Chicago is especially corrupt or there is pervasive waste, fraud, and abuse throughout the billions that the federal government is spending for these green jobs. And who knows what is going on in some of the other federally-funded programs. And what should we expect for a program that is run far away from where the money is spent with millions and millions of dollars being flung at projects?


2421Rich said...

You will find corruption under every rock in Chicago. Everybody runs a scam and everybody is on the take. After decades of Mob influence and the famous Chicago Political Machine, the dishonesty, sleaze and fraud are what is pervasive. Almost everybody does it and many feel they must participate to survive. Chicago is a bad example of what may be happening in other parts of the country. When it comes to corruption Chicago is not the 2nd city to anyone.(probably tied with Washington D C.)

pumping-irony said...

The town that made "Obama" a household word (soon to be an imprecation), wonder if there's a connection....

lorraine_lanning said...

Of course it's not just the one program, it's always been the entire city.

My great-grandfather died suddenly in 1916 of an aneurysm, leaving my great-grandmother with 3 young children and one on the way. He had been a very successful immigrant, owning at least 2 businesses, but the corrupt city stole it all, leaving my great-grandmother destitute.

Bachbone said...

It's the same in PA, where I was born and spent 30 years of my life. A brother and sister still live there. Pittsburgh and Philadelphia were and still are corrupt from top to bottom. While I still lived there, the mayor of Pittsburgh, who went on to be governor, had "an interest" in a huge road construction company which somehow always managed to be low bidder on road contracts. Where there's big money, there's big corruption.

davod said...

The Labor government in Australia beat Obama to the scam. This from the February 12, 2010 edition of The Australian - Garrett admits to insulation warnings

"PETER Garrett (Yes, of Men at Work fame) has admitted he was warned repeatedly by government and industry bodies that flaws in his roof insulation program risked causing fatalities as the opposition demanded Kevin Rudd sack him for "maladministration" that led to deaths.
Fighting to save his career, the Environment Minister told parliament the warnings went back to February last year, when his department was told of potential risks, and to March when he was warned directly. He said he had responded promptly and argued it was not his bungling that was to blame for four deaths and serious safety risks to householders but the "slack" behaviour of installers.

Tony Abbott said the program was always going to attract "shonks" and seized on at least 13 safety warnings to the government as he tried to censure the Prime Minister for failing to sack Mr Garrett. The attack came amid accusations federal officials had warned their state counterparts in April of a "10 per cent failure rate" for the program as they rushed to roll out the $2.45 billion scheme."