OIG Audit Finds Department of Buildings’ Complaint Response Times Pose Health and Safety Risks to the Public

A report released today by the City of Chicago Office of Inspector General (OIG) found that the City of Chicago Department of Buildings (DOB) had a backlog of over 5,000 complaints, some dating back to 2013, almost 200 of which described serious health and safety hazards. Potential hazards included blocked exits, seniors’ homes without water, bricks falling onto a sidewalk used by schoolchildren, and mouse, rat, mold, and bed bug infestations. OIG’s audit found that DOB met its department response deadline for only 36.5% of building complaints in the first five months of 2017. The audit also determined that DOB did not have an effective strategy for prioritizing complaints, and exceeded the Municipal Code of Chicago mandatory 21-day deadline for several complaint types. In addition, the City Data Portal and DOB Building Violation websites failed to provide a property’s full violation history.

“Deadlines that fail to meet legal mandates set by the City ordinance, public information that lacks transparency, and unaddressed health and safety hazards pose far too many risks to the residents of Chicago,” said Inspector General Joe Ferguson. “We encourage DOB to approach improvements to its complaint-based inspection operations holistically and programmatically, utilizing robust performance metrics to inform a comprehensive, rather than a piecemeal, approach.”

Among OIG’s recommendations for improvement:

  • Immediately identifying and addressing open, overdue emergency complaints.
  • Conducting a staffing analysis to determine how many inspectors and support staff are needed to manage each bureau’s workload and respond promptly to complaints, along with guidance and training on the most efficient methods of identifying and processing complaints.
  • Working with 311 to improve the information collected from complainants, as well as the Office of Budget and Management to obtain the technology necessary for all inspectors to enter complaint outcome and inspection information electronically from the field.
  • Improving the usefulness of publicly available data and working with the Department of Innovation Technology to provide more meaningful and complete property information to the public.

DOB agreed with many of our audit recommendations and proposed several corrective actions to improve the way it addresses complaints from the public.

The full report can be found online.

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