The City of Chicago Office of Inspector General (OIG) has completed a follow-up to its November 2016 audit of the frequency of food establishment inspections conducted by the Chicago Department of Public Health (CDPH). Based on the Department’s responses, OIG concludes that CDPH has begun implementation of corrective actions related to the audit findings.
The purpose of the 2016 audit was to determine whether CDPH’s Food Protection Division conducted routine inspections of food establishments as often as required by the Department’s rules and regulations incorporating state law, conducted inspections triggered by complaints and reinspections of known violations in a timely manner, and accurately reported the results of inspections and reinspections through the City’s Data Portal. Our audit found that CDPH,
- performed the required number of routine food inspections of only 43.9% of High-Risk, 80.1% of Medium-Risk, and 24.8% of Low-Risk establishments;
- conducted reinspections and complaint-based inspections in a timely manner;
- had a relationship with its software vendor that did not comply with City policies regarding data maintenance with licensing; and
- posted complete and accurate food inspection data to the City’s Data Portal.
Based upon the results of our audit, we recommended that CDPH,
- collaborate with the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) to design and implement a permanent food inspection schedule that is feasible in light of the resources that can be made available to CDPH, effective in promoting food safety, and sufficient to preserve CDPH’s certification as a local public health department;
- if IDPH and CDPH are unable to agree upon a permanent food inspection schedule, work with the Office of Budget and Management (OBM) to acquire sufficient staff to bring CDPH into compliance with existing state rules;
- work with OBM to propose updated fees, fines, and licensing rates designed to bring the current revenue structure closer to the actual costs of conducting food inspections; and
- ensure that its software vendor relationship, as well as relationships with similar vendors, are in compliance with City policies and implement necessary solutions.
In response to the audit, CDPH described a number of corrective actions it would take.
In June 2017, OIG inquired with CDPH regarding the status of the corrective actions the Department committed to in response to OIG’s audit and any other actions it may have taken. Below, we summarize the four audit findings and recommendations, as well as the Department’s response to our follow-up inquiry.
Based on CDPH’s follow-up response, OIG concludes that the Department has begun implementing corrective actions within its control which, once fully implemented, may reasonably be expected to resolve a substantial portion of the core findings noted in the audit. However, full implementation will require the cooperation and collaboration of IDPH, a state agency beyond CDPH’s control. IDPH has signaled an intention to consider and review regulatory issues raised by OIG’s audit findings and recommendations. We respectfully urge IDPH to follow through on its signaled intent, and work with CDPH to develop and implement effective standards that are both practically feasible and designed to provide transparent and accountable information to patrons of Chicago’s food establishments.