‘Dysfunctional’ State Suggestion Board Not So Receptive to Ideas

NBC5 Investigates discovered the State Government Suggestion Award Board is just as gridlocked as the state itself

It’s no secret that the State of Illinois is in a state of financial gridlock.

But did you know there’s an official board which actually welcomes your suggestions on how to save money?

Or at least there’s supposed to be. NBC5 Investigates discovered that board, known as the State Government Suggestion Award Board, has spent at least the last 10 years, just as gridlocked as the state itself. Indeed, the saga of the board, is something of a case study on how dysfunctional the State of Illinois has become.

Created in 1985 by the General Assembly, the Suggestion Board offers cash awards for the best money-saving ideas. The board originally only accepted suggestions from state employees, but later began accepting ideas from any Illinois citizen.

An early report, from 1993, said the board had identified some $12 million in savings to date.

But the last time the board actually accepted a suggestion was ten years ago—a single employee’s idea about weather stripping a single door at a single building. Since 2008, the Board has considered a total of 667 ideas, but has accepted none of them. Starting in 2013, the Suggestion Board didn’t even meet for lack of a quorum. The same was true in 2014, and 2015. No one could get their act together to elect a chairman, establish a schedule, or even figure out a place to meet.

“Well, we certainly saw it as an underutilized program,” says Mike Hoffman, the acting director of Central Management Services who inherited the entire dysfunctional mess from the two prior administrations. “It’s one we were interested in re-invigorating.”

And it appears they have done just that. The Suggestion Board now has a quorum, and has 175 new ideas which have been submitted over the last six months. Although the online submission form specifies “employee suggestions,” CMS assures us that the board will accept – and possibly award – ideas from all Illinois citizens.

“The prior process was unnecessarily cumbersome,” Hoffman says. “By correcting those issues, we expect that we are going to get a good number of ideas that we can implement, and that we can share some of those savings with those who suggest them.”

Hoffman says one idea which is on the verge of being implemented, is expected to save the state $100,000 annually by reforming the way various departments use certified mail.

“A lot of these ideas are very simple, but it takes a fresh set of eyes looking at them, or it just takes someone to listen,” he said. “We implement as many feasible ones that we can, and that number can really add up.”

NBC5 Investigates found that the board had become so disorganized, they could not even keep track of the money they saved. While the 1993 report boasted of $12 million in reforms, subsequent reports in more recent years, stated that the number was only $566,021. And no one is sure how that disconnect happened.

“As you can imagine, this is not the only program that has grown dysfunctional or allowed to run dormant,” Hoffman notes. “So we’re trying to get as many of these programs up and running as quickly as we can.”

If you have a suggestion you want to submit to the state, you can submit it online, here.

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