OIG Finds That the Department of Family and Support Services Largely Aligns Contract Selection with Outcomes-Based Goals, Identifies Opportunities for Improvement

The Office of Inspector General (OIG) conducted an audit of the Department of Family and Support Services’ (DFSS) Strategic Contracting process for selecting delegate agencies. The objective of the audit was to determine whether DFSS’ contracting processes align with outcomes-based goals and the Department’s internal framework known as the Commitment to Outcomes, of which its Strategic Contracting process is a part. OIG concluded that DFSS’ Strategic Planning and Impact division’s involvement in developing requests for proposal (RFPs) and evaluation tools—critical steps in the Strategic Contracting process—helps align those steps with the Commitment to Outcomes. However, OIG also determined that there is room for improvement.

DFSS assists Chicagoans in need by connecting them with resources covering a variety of categories, including abuse counseling, senior health and wellness, housing, workforce assistance, veterans’ resources, youth mentoring, and early childhood education. DFSS enlists the services of organizations through RFP; DFSS issues RFPs, evaluates applications, selects delegate agencies for each program, and awards payment for their services through contracts. As of January 2022, the Department reported working with 350 delegate agencies under 1,600 contracts, with a total annual community investment of $346 million.

In 2016, DFSS launched its Commitment to Outcomes framework to describe, measure, and report on the outcomes which the Department wants to achieve, in order to improve service provision for vulnerable Chicagoans by refocusing services on outcomes.

OIG concluded that DFSS largely applies its Strategic Contracting process in accordance with the Commitment to Outcomes, but that there is room for improvement. That is, DFSS could more thoroughly apply its Commitment to Outcomes to maximize its effectiveness in improving outcomes.

OIG made several recommendations for developing new procedures to ensure that key elements are included in all future RFPs, evaluation tools, and contracts, and that evaluators consistently score applications according to Department guidance. OIG also recommended that DFSS ensure that all of its divisions share an understanding of outcomes-based goals, metrics, and key elements with regards to the Commitment to Outcomes.

In response to OIG’s audit, DFSS stated that it would continue to provide guidance and training on the Commitment to Outcomes to program divisions through the Strategic Planning and Impact division. The Department will also continue to provide guidance and procedures to help its divisions include relevant and appropriate elements in RFPs, evaluation tools for RFP responses, and related contracts. Finally, DFSS stated that it will improve the scoring guidance it provides to those responsible for evaluating potential delegate agencies.

“DFSS provides crucial resources, connecting some of Chicago’s most vulnerable populations with essential social services. It is at the core of the City’s responsibilities to provide services to those in need, and we ought to do everything in our power to make the most effective investments in those services. DFSS’s Commitment to Outcomes is a powerful tool in that pursuit, and we appreciate the Department’s commitment to apply it with even greater impact,” said Inspector General Deborah Witzburg.   

The full report can be found online at OIG’s website: bit.ly/DFSSStrategicContracting.

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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.