Audit of CFD Commissary Transactions

The Office of Inspector General (OIG) conducted an audit of the Chicago Fire Department’s (CFD) issuance and exchange of uniform items to CFD members at the Department’s Commissary.

In its Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) with the Chicago Fire Fighters Union, Local No. 2, the City of Chicago agreed to provide all uniformed CFD members with free uniforms[1] and to replace or repair any items that are worn out or damaged as a result of normal use.[2] Depending on a member’s rank and function, CFD provides summer and winter dress uniforms, summer and winter work clothes, and protective clothing.[3] The Fire Commissioner may change the type and amount of required uniform items at his or her discretion.

In order to fulfill the City’s obligation, CFD contracts with a vendor to maintain a store, called the Commissary, which issues, exchanges, and repairs all uniform items other than bunker gear.[4] At the Commissary newly hired and promoted members receive items appropriate for their ranks and all uniformed members may exchange worn or damaged items. CFD pays for both the issuance of initial uniform items and the repair or exchange of worn or damaged items.

The objective of the audit was to determine if Commissary transactions including uniform repairs, such as re-stitching split seams, adhered to CFD’s policies and authorized operational practices.

OIG reviewed the 58,257 Commissary transactions processed between July 14, 2014 and June 30, 2015, totaling $1.7 million.[5] We found that 58,192 transactions, or 99.9%, adhered to CFD policies or operational practices approved by CFD management. However, we also found that the Department neither submitted nor was appropriated a budget that accurately reflected the funds it intended to spend on Commissary expenses, hindering accountable financial evaluation by the Department and the City. Although we concluded that CFD and the vendor effectively managed the Commissary transactions, OIG recommends that CFD work with the Office of Budget and Management (OBM) to develop a Commissary budget that includes all funds it intends to spend on Commissary expenses. In response to our audit findings and recommendations, CFD stated that it would ensure that future Fire Academy Training and Improvement Grant funds would be processed in compliance with the City of Chicago Grants Management Policy, thus budgeting all intended Commissary funding.

[1] While all CFD uniformed members receive free uniforms and free replacements on an exchange basis, most members also receive an annual monetary stipend referred to as a uniform allowance, of $1,250 or $1,500, depending on position, pursuant to the CBA. According to CFD management, the uniform allowance is intended to pay for uniform maintenance and cleaning, but the value of the allowance is not based on an estimate of the cost of cleaning and maintaining the uniform items. Instead, the value is purely the result of negotiations between the City and the Chicago Fire Fighters Union, Local No. 2.

[2] It is against CFD policy for members to wear uniform items when off-duty or while engaged in any type of secondary employment.

[3] Appendix A of this report lists all uniform items CFD issues to its members.

[4] CFD provides bunker gear, which includes protective coats, trousers, and suspenders, to its members through another vendor. OIG did not review CFD’s procedures for issuing and replacing bunker gear.

[5] “Transactions,” as used in this report, includes each item dispersed (either through initial issue or exchange) or altered.