SPRINGFIELD - Widespread management problems continue to plague the state's expansive prison system, a new report shows. In a two-year review of the Illinois Department of Corrections, Auditor General William Holland found double the number of problems within the agency found during a similar audit covering the two previous years.
The audits of the agency's central office and individual prison operations found problems with everything from a lack of employee training to the number of candy bars delivered to one institution.
Auditors unearthed 13 bookkeeping problems at the Vienna Correctional Center, including instances where money from the prison commissary wasn't being counted by an independent employee.
In one instance, records showed that 2,130 bags of ice were delivered to the Johnson County lockup when only 230 were received. Similarly, accounts in Vienna misstated the number of candy bars delivered to the institution.
The agency, which has a $1.2 billion budget, oversees operations at 27 prisons and eight youth prisons - all of which house more than 45,500 inmates in facilities built to handle 35,500 prisoners.
Its director since 2003 has been Roger Walker Jr., the former sheriff of Macon County. In his first two years as chief of the expansive agency, auditors uncovered 53 bookkeeping errors. In the latest go-around, they found 102.
The problems range from lax oversight on payroll issues to potential violations of state law when it comes to purchasing items for sale at inmate commissaries.
A spokesman said the agency has corrected many of the auditors' findings.
"Others are a work in progress and the agency will be diligent in coming into compliance," noted spokesman Derek Schnapp in an e-mail.
Schnapp said Gov. Rod Blagojevich's efforts to streamline government by reducing the state payroll isn't putting taxpayer dollars in jeopardy through mismanagement.
"The agency has always been responsible for taxpayer money and it is committed to doing a good job," Schnapp said.
Auditors also found problems at individual prisons.
At the Lincoln Correctional Center, auditors questioned the spending of $7 million on medical expenses, primarily because of questionable bookkeeping practices.
At Big Muddy Correctional Center in Ina, officials said a lack of adequately trained staff resulted in numerous problems tracking inventory.
In one instance, the prison clothing store was found to have excess inventory, primarily because a clerk didn't check the previous year's usage when placing new orders.
At the Stateville Correctional Center, auditors found money was being handled without proper checks and balances. Employees at the Will County facility also lacked training, auditors said.
Understaffing also was the explanation for problems at the juvenile prison in Harrisburg, where auditors found problems with records regarding what was being kept in prison storerooms.
"If there are vacancies that need to be addressed in those particular areas, we will address them," said Schnapp.
Officials at Harrisburg also overpaid one staffer by more than $1,000, but didn't seek to get the money back.
Lax bookkeeping also was a problem at the Decatur women's prison, where payroll vouchers weren't being reviewed by managers. In addition, auditors found there were no records of whether outside personnel had gained access to inmate records.