Follow-Up on DOB Elevator Inspections

The City of Chicago Office of Inspector General (OIG) has completed a follow-up to its October 2014 audit of the Department of Buildings’ (DOB) compliance with the annual elevator inspection requirements set forth in the Municipal Code of Chicago (MCC) § 13-20-100. OIG concludes that DOB’s corrective action related to two of the original audit findings is still pending, and DOB has fully implemented corrective action related to the remaining three audit findings.

The purpose of the 2014 audit was to determine the completion rates of annual elevator inspections for 2013, the timeliness of follow-up inspections, the completeness of inspection fee records, and the effectiveness of DOB audits of inspections performed by private inspectors under the Department’s Annual Inspection Certification (AIC) program. Our audit found that,

  • DOB and AIC inspectors inspected only 33.9% of the buildings requiring annual elevator inspections in 2013;
  • DOB did not routinely conduct follow-up inspections to ensure timely correction of elevator inspection violations;
  • DOB failed to create fee records for 18.0% of completed elevator inspections performed by DOB staff, resulting in estimated unbilled inspection revenue of $50,200 over the course of a year;
  • DOB had a backlog of 1,004 paper inspection records that had not been recorded in the DOB computer system as of January 2014, representing delayed billings of $186,155; and
  • DOB did not use a statistically valid sampling methodology to select AIC inspections for audit.

Based upon the results of our audit, we recommended that DOB,

  • consider expanding the AIC program or work with the Office of Budget and Management (OBM) to fund appropriate DOB staffing levels to ensure that all elevators are inspected annually;
  • develop a method to track the timely correction of elevator violations and resolve the existing backlog of open elevator violations;
  • take immediate action to ensure fee exception reports are regularly reviewed and necessary corrections are made so that the Department of Finance (DOF) may promptly initiate billing for each inspection;
  • document procedures and persons responsible for reviewing the reports, and train staff appropriately;
  • issue Certificates of Compliance only after payment of the inspection fee is received;
  • work to clear the existing data entry backlog and develop procedures that ensure the timely entry of inspection record data;
  • consider revising the audit sampling process so that the sample is statistically valid; and
  • provide staff training in generally accepted sampling methods to ensure the quality of future audit work.

In its response to the audit, DOB described a number of corrective actions it planned to take. In May 2015, OIG inquired with DOB regarding the status of the corrective actions the Department had committed to and any other actions it may have taken in response to OIG’s audit. On the following pages we have summarized the five original audit findings and recommendations, as well as the Department’s response to our follow-up inquiry.

Based on DOB’s follow-up response, OIG concludes that the Department is still in the planning stage respecting corrective actions for two original audit findings and has fully implemented corrective actions that address the remaining three audit findings. It is also important to note that the scale of corrective action needed has increased since the time OIG issued the original audit. At the time of the audit, DOB records showed that 6,438 buildings required annual elevator inspections in 2013. However, in response to the audit the Department reviewed its data and found system errors had resulted in a serious understatement of its inventory of buildings requiring inspection. After correcting the errors the Department reported to OIG a building inventory of 9,875 for 2014 and 10,381 for 2015. DOB is to be credited for undertaking this review proactively and for its continuing actions to address the issue.

DOB is working diligently to implement corrective actions. However, it remains important for the Department to continue to strive towards its stated goal of 100% inspection completion rate for elevators citywide. To that end, we urge the Department to continue its expansion of the AIC program and its upgrade of its electronic inspection database. Expanding AIC will increase the total number of annual inspections completed while upgrading its electronic inspection database will allow the Department to conduct timely follow-up inspections.