Central Illinois lawmakers are working on efforts to prevent future “NRI-like” boondoggles like the one perpetrated by the administration of former Governor Pat Quinn, according to State Sen. Darin LaHood (R-Dunlap).
“I am pleased to join my legislative colleague Senator Jason Barickman who has been tenaciously seeking the truth on this multi-year debacle that misused more than $50 million in taxpayer monies on what amounted to nothing more than a 2010 slush fund for Quinn allies,” LaHood said.
Amendment 1 to Senate Bill 1058 is aimed at fixing many of the most controversial aspects of the NRI program.
The timing of the Neighborhood Recovery Initiative launch, just before the 2010 gubernatorial election, led many to question if the $50+ million program was simply created to drum up votes. The Senators’ legislation prohibits constitutional officers and legislators from publicly promoting new programs and grants awarded by a State agency in the two months leading up to an election.
The measure also rewrites sections of the Illinois Finance Act to eliminate the accounting maneuver which allowed the Illinois Violence Prevention Authority (IVPA) to get around fiscal year limitations. In addition, the legislation creates significant updates the Grant Accountability and Transparency Act (GATA).
After releasing a scathing audit of the NRI program in February of 2014, Illinois Auditor General Bill Holland publicly criticized the IVPA’s use of fund transfers to bypass legislative oversight. Holland’s audit also pointed out that Chicago Aldermen were allowed to influence the decision on who received grants and how they were distributed, that the process lacked proper oversight, and that several recipients weren’t compliant with reporting requirements. Multiple media reports also showed that some grant recipients owed the state hundreds of thousands of dollars from previous programs, yet were still able to receive NRI funding.
Senators LaHood and Barickman worked with current Governor Bruce Rauner’s Office of Management and Budget (GOMB) to include an update to GATA as part of his legislation. The updates include:
-Require documentation of award decisions, including evaluation and scoring of applicants, to determine how recipients were selected.
-A determination of non-compliance could stop payment to awardee at the discretion of the agency. Additionally, if any grantee is non-compliant, all new grants to them stop until they come into compliance.
-All annual fiscal reports and vouchers requesting payment must be certified, which would aid prosecution of fraudulent or improper grantees.
-Any monies spent before a grant agreement is executed would require an expenditure report. The over-seeing agency would be required to review the report and only reimburse reasonable and allowable expenditures.
-Travel costs charged to grants must follow state travel regulations, including caps established by the Governor’s Travel Control Board.
The legislation also asks GOMB to study and suggest additional legislation modeled after the federal Improper Payments Elimination and Recovery Improvement Act of 2012. The report would be due by January 1st, 2016.