A new report by the Office of the Auditor General of Illinois says that a $54.5 million violence prevention program initiated by Gov. Pat Quinn in 2012 showed “pervasive deficiencies” in almost every aspect of the program, including planning, implementation and management.
The Neighborhood Recovery Initiative (NRI) was designed to reduce risk factors associated with violence in 23 communities in Cook County and was run by the Illinois Violence Prevention Authority until last year, when it was taken over by another state agency.
An investigation by CNN in 2012 found NRI paid teens to hand out fliers promoting inner peace, and also paid at-risk teens to take field trips to museums, march in a parade with the governor and attend a yoga class to learn how to handle stress.
The Auditor General’s report, released Tuesday, provides a long list of ways in which the program failed to maintain even the most basic of controls over where dollars were spent, including a failure to monitor expenses, not maintaining timesheets for paid employees and an “inadequate process” to recover unspent funds given to lead agencies and community partners, to name a few.
The program was first announced in 2010, less than a month before Quinn’s was reelected to full term. Many critics questioned the timing of the program, suggesting the program was primarily a political move to show the governor was doing something about rising violence in Chicago.
Since then, the program has had a troubled history. For example, the agency relied on recommendations from Chicago aldermen when choosing community agencies to run the programs.
Those agencies charged $4.4 million, but poor record-keeping led auditors to question $1.8 million of that spending. As well, the report found that not all of the most violent Chicago communities were included in the program.
The Illinois Criminal Justice Information Authority took over the Violence Prevention Authority last year, and a spokeswoman says the program has been revamped with much tighter rules.