April 28, 2005

Blago's Cost-cutting Cred Crushed by CMS Corruption Concerns

It's a huge mess. Governor Blagojevich must think he's in a nightmare version of the movie "Groundhog Day", as money scandals threaten to erupt with almost monotonous regularity. Yet another revelation of his donors and those connected to his organization grabbing for money with both hands and feet and likely their teeth has come to light, this one threatening to widen and really develop legs.

The state Auditor General has issued an audit of the Gov's showpiece agency, the Central Management Services, or CMS, which he created to aggregate power over state agencies under his control with the stated aim to increase efficiency and eliminate waste in state government. It was touted as saving the state huge amounts of money.

Now the revelations contained in the audit are blowing this premise to bits and will severely damage the cost cutting, reformer image that Blagojevich has been carefully cultivating. For you irony fans out there, the audit reveals that many of the firms hired by CMS to identify waste and realize savings were themselves padding their contracts and submitting inflated and dubious expense claims amounting to hundred of thousands of dollars which were then paid by the state.

The laundry list of wrongdoing or at least dubious dealings contained in the auditor's report is long. It's already evolving into a battle royale in Springfield between CMS officials and the Auditor General and promises to get worse before it gets better.

Auditor Gen. William Holland asked the state's top lawyer Tuesday to investigate $546,650 in expenses, ranging from wining and dining state officials to parking at a Chicago Bulls game, paid for by taxpayers through Gov. Rod Blagojevich's showcase plan to save the state hundreds of millions of dollars.

The expenses were but one chapter in Holland's scathing audit of Blagojevich's Department of Central Management Services. Holland said it raised so many questions about the integrity of how state contracts are awarded and managed that Atty. Gen. Lisa Madigan should look into his findings.

"We are reviewing it closely," Madigan spokeswoman Melissa Merz said.

Holland also complained that the department had not provided documentation to back up its claims of saving taxpayers up to $600 million and suggested that taxpayers could actually be losing money because the Blagojevich initiatives are so hard to quantify.

"This is worse than just sloppy," Holland said.

Officials for the department, which Blagojevich has used to centralize his control over the state government bureaucracy, denied any improprieties in awarding contracts and accused the auditor general of a "deliberately inflammatory" review.

The release of the audit may become a major political embarrassment to Blagojevich, who pledged to reform the way the state does business and to hold a lid on state sales and income tax rates by cutting costs.

The audit also brought to the surface an exchange of caustic rhetoric between Holland and Central Management Services officials, creating another feud in a Statehouse buffeted by frequent battles between the Democratic governor and lawmakers, including those in his own party.

The issues of alleged waste and mismanagement highlighted by Holland involved $69 million the department awarded in contracts to firms charged with finding ways to cut spending.


At 4/29/2005 5:13 AM, Blogger RepublicanJoe said...

One term, if was not for his millions in his war chest...

At 4/29/2005 10:30 AM, Blogger The Inside Dope said...

I've been consistently amazed at the level of bitterness and opposition that Blago has drawn not only from Republicans, which is only expected, but from fellow Dems, and it began from the moment he was sworn in.
And this is the guy who is widely acknowledged to have presidential ambitions?
His seeing himself as presidential timber has always indicated an amazing amount of hubris and ego, but it's appearing to be increasingly delusional.

The Dope had hopes that he could get his act together, but the steady drumbeat of messy stories makes it more and more difficult.

At 4/30/2005 8:49 AM, Blogger maybesomeday said...

Don't forget about Blago's niece who just got hired for $60,000 to work as a lobbyist.

At 5/04/2005 10:19 PM, Blogger MississippiRiver said...

The Governor should have done a mass firing of his top brass at CMS over this. But, no, instead he is playing it cute again and pretending the issue doesn't matter.

It does. It speaks to mismanagement of government and tax dollars.

I am a Democrat, but this Governor had better shape up soon.


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