Report: CPS employees involved in ‘widespread fraud’ in lunch program
Chicago Tribune: A report from the Inspector General’s (IG) office of Chicago Public Schools released Monday raises concerns that district employees were encouraged to make fraudulent applications for federal free and reduced-price lunch programs.
The IG found that district employees including principals and assistant principals engaged in “widespread, systemic fraud” in making applications for the program, revelations the office first made last year.
The IG’s new report also criticized the district for not properly following up on earlier recommendations from the IG’s office to provide stricter oversight of vendors and for failing to rescind a residency waiver granted to a top CPS officer.
The issue of vendor oversight came up last spring with the executive overseeing the district’s food program was found to have accepted thousands of dollars in improper gifts from CPS’s two largest food vendors.
“These significant ethical lapses — wining and dining employees and providing other inducements in exchange for preferential treatment — highlight the need for enhanced internal controls to prevent and/or detect this malfeasance,” said CPS’ Inspector General James Sullivan in the report uploaded on CPS’ website Monday.
“The (Office of Inspector General) continues to recommend that CPS enhance its Ethics Office to help stem the tide of ethical misconduct. That recommendation has fallen on deaf ears.”
The IG acknowledged that the district could not get rid of the vendors, who collectively received $75 million per year from CPS, and still offer the same food services at competitive prices. Instead, Sullivan’s office had recommended the district hire independent monitors paid for by vendors to keep an eye on contractors and their relationships with staff such as gift-giving and other ethics violations. The district did not immediately follow up on that recommendation.
“These cases are extremely important because we’re dealing with some of CPS’ largest vendors and its highest ranking employees,” Sullivan said in a phone interview Monday. “It’s important that they be closely monitored.” Nor did CPS beef up its ethics office, as Sullivan had recommended.
Only in the government could one not get rid of an unethical vendor. A private-sector firm would drop them in a heartbeat, and immediately fire employees who violated the rules. But it’s the “Chicago way” after all…