OIG Follow-Up Finds That the Department of Law Has Not Implemented Corrective Actions to Reduce Notification Delays Related to Sanitation Code Violations

The City of Chicago Office of Inspector General (OIG) has completed a follow-up to its September 2019 audit of the Department of Law’s (DOL) process for notifying people of sanitation code violations, such as overflowing garbage containers or uncut weeds. Based on the Department’s response, OIG concludes that DOL has not implemented any corrective actions, does not plan to set performance goals, and considers the improvements that OIG suggested not “operationally feasible.”

Our 2019 audit found that for sanitation code violations that occurred in 2016 and 2017, DOL notified property owners an average of 289 days—more than 9 months—after the alleged violation. In 63.2% of the cases, DOL sent notices between six and twelve months after the violation; in another 23.8%, it took the Department a year or more to send the notices. During this period, the primary cause for the delay in notification was DOL’s backlog of violations. The process was relatively short once staff began work. OIG recommended that DOL collaborate with the Department of Streets and Sanitation to set a target for the maximum number of days from violation to notification and implement performance monitoring. In its 2019 response, DOL stated that OIG’s recommendations were “unfeasible” and did not commit to implementing any of the suggestions.

Based on the Department’s follow-up response, OIG concludes that DOL has once again not implemented any corrective actions. Specifically, DOL has not developed a target or goal for time from violation to notification, and has not implemented performance monitoring. Similar to its response to the audit, DOL again stated that OIG’s recommendations are not feasible.

“When a City department’s procedures and internal systems result in prolonged services, inadequate data, and a growing backlog, prompt remedial action is required. Unfortunately, OIG’s follow-up found that the Department of Law still believes that it would be unreasonable to monitor its own performance, and it refuses to commit to making any changes to its process for notice of sanitation code violations. The operational problems OIG highlighted in our 2019 audit therefore remain,” said Inspector General Joe Ferguson. “The Department’s repeated refusal to address the identified concerns harms the City’s residents and taxpayers. We once again urge the Department to re-examine our recommendations, and to implement operational improvements for the physical and financial health of the City, and urge the City Council–which, voicing concerns expressed by their constituents, was in part a prompt for OIG’s audit–to take up the findings and recommendations surfaced by our report.”

The full report can be found online: bit.ly/DOLNoticesFollowUp.

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The mission of the independent and non-partisan City of Chicago Office of Inspector General (OIG) is to promote economy, effectiveness, efficiency, and integrity by identifying corruption, waste, and mismanagement in City government. OIG is a watchdog for the taxpayers of the City and has jurisdiction to conduct investigations and audits into most aspects of City government. If you see corruption, fraud, or waste of any kind, we need to hear from you. For more information, visit our website at: www.igchicago.org.