OIG Releases Audit of CFD Uniform Provision and Replacement

OIG Releases Audit of CFD Uniform Provision and Replacement

The City of Chicago Office of Inspector General (OIG) has completed an audit assessing the issuance, exchange, and repair of uniform items at the Chicago Fire Department (CFD)   Commissary, a vendor-run storefront that issues or sells CFD-approved items to CFD employees.

According to the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) with the Chicago Fire Fighters Union, Local No. 2, the City of Chicago provides all firefighters and paramedics with free uniforms such as summer and winter dress uniforms, summer and winter work clothes, and protective clothing. CFD also replaces or repairs any items that are worn out or damaged as a result of normal use. In addition, CFD provides the majority of members with a uniform allowance. Although the intention of the allowance is to pay for uniform cleaning, the value of the allowance is not calculated based on the actual costs but rather is the result of unrelated CBA negotiations.

The audit examined all of the Commissary transactions between July 14, 2014 and June 30, 2015, totaling $1.7 million. OIG found that Commissary transactions adhered to CFD’s policies and authorized operational practices. However, we also found that $535,757, or 10.5%, of 2012 and 2013 CFD Commissary expenditures came from a grant source that was not included in its budget proposal or appropriation. In fact, contrary to best practices and the City’s own rules, the Department did not budget any of its intended usage of the Illinois Fire Academy Training and Improvement Grant funds, whether Commissary-related or otherwise. CFD explained that this was historical practice, but stated that in the future it would ensure the grant funds are processed in compliance with the City of Chicago Grants Management Policy, thus budgeting all intended Commissary funding.

“CFD should be credited for effectively managing its uniform commissary vendor and embracing more transparent and accountable budgeting respecting grant-based funding sources,” said Inspector General Joseph Ferguson. “However, the  sizable annual uniform allowance given to CFD personnel represents an additional opportunity for improved budgetary transparency, accountability, and savings. Purportedly provided to pay for the annual maintenance and cleaning of uniforms, the allowance is completely unmoored from any determination of actual need or use. In addition, CFD does not monitor or audit how (or for what) members spend their allowance once it’s disbursed. As a result, this substantial annual stipend, one of the most generous in the nation, more closely resembles an automatic cash bonus. It therefore merits rigorous scrutiny and reassessment in the context of the City’s 2017 bargaining round with Local 2 for a new CBA.”

The full report, and the City’s response to the findings, can be found online at OIG’s website: http://bit.ly/CFDCOM.

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