OIG Releases Advisory Concerning the City of Chicago’s Data Quality

The City of Chicago Office of Inspector General (OIG) has concluded an advisory regarding the City of Chicago’s data quality. Within our audits and investigations, OIG has identified data quality issues impacting data objectivity, utility, and integrity across various City departments. The inconsistent quality of the City’s data hinders it from effectively allocating resources, measuring performance, and achieving objectives. Data is a key strategic governmental asset, and poor data quality hinders the City’s ability to improve decision-making and management through data analysis.

Some examples of data quality issues OIG observed in its recent work include:

  • Chicago Fire Department data that was inadequate to allow measurement of emergency response times
  • Department of Human Resources payroll data which lacked information about employees’ leave or contained inaccurate address data
  • Department of Assets, Information and Services’ inventory of municipal license plates registered to City vehicles which did not match the Illinois Secretary of State’s database
  • Department of Streets and Sanitation did not have a list of commercial and high-density buildings subject to recycling requirements or an accurate list of City-owned lots to facilitate measuring performance for timely weed-cutting goals
  • Chicago Police Department’s management and production of records could not ensure it met its constitutional and other legal obligations
  • Chicago Police Department lacked controls regarding the generation, maintenance, and sharing of data designating members of the public as gang members
  • Chicago Low-Income Housing Trust Fund—an independent entity conducting work on behalf of the City—did not maintain complete documentation of known health hazards and code violations
  • Chicago Department of Transportation’s incomplete and inaccurate driveway permit data resulted in annual revenue loss between $1.1-1.5 million

To remedy existing data quality issues, OIG suggested that the chief data officer (CDO) work with departments to develop a proactive culture of data quality management, to include creating and implementing a uniform data quality framework that encourages departments to consider what their data needs will be and whether the quality of their current data is sufficient; identifying interdepartmental data needs and facilitating requests from one department to another; engaging with departments and providing direction on the development of their data quality plans; and working with departments to provide public information on the quality of their data and its limitations to users.

In response, the CDO concurred and offered insight on how the City is reimagining its approach through its IT Strategic Plan and other initiatives “that will improve data quality, such as a focus on user-centered digital service delivery practices and full-scale IT modernization of aging, legacy systems.” Furthermore, OIG’s Audit and Program Review section has developed a new process to communicate data quality issues encountered during performance audits directly to the CDO. The goal is to ensure that the departments and the CDO are aware of existing data quality issues and to support collaborative efforts toward corrective actions.

“Governments that actively use data can evaluate the success of public service delivery and engage in continuous improvementbut data can only serve its purposes if it is complete, accurate, and reliable,” said Interim Inspector General William Marback. “The City’s Chief Data Officer has outlined current and future data initiatives, and we are encouraged by an ongoing effort to ensure that the data issues that frequently come up in OIG’s reporting will be addressed going forward.”

The advisory, including the CDO’s response, can be found on OIG’s website.

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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.