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Our View: Initiative hints at benefits of forensic audit

Published: Monday, Oct. 22, 2012 5:30 a.m. CDT

Jay Rowell sounds like the type of departmental leader Illinois state government could use more of.

Who’s Jay Rowell? He’s been the director of the Illinois Department of Employment Security for about a year.

A reform initiative he launched made the news recently. The 3-month study, which began in July, determined that more than 1,100 people illegally collected nearly $2 million in unemployment benefits while they were jailed by counties or the state.

While someone is locked up, you see, that person is disqualified from receiving jobless benefits because he or she is not available to work.

Those who continued collecting unemployment benefits while behind bars could face state or federal charges of criminal fraud. Rowell’s office wants to recover as much of the ill-gotten gains as possible.

Rowell’s people got a tip from a southern Illinois lawmaker about jailed inmates possibly collecting benefits. The department began cross-checking lists of jail inmates and lists of jobless benefit recipients and uncovered significant fraud.

The Department of Unemployment Security has taken additional steps to make it harder for claimants to defraud the state.

We applaud those efforts.

We encourage continued vigilance.

And we pause to consider the possibilities.

Just think: One internal audit of spending in one departmental program uncovered $2 million in fraud.

What additional waste and fraud could be uncovered if the state Legislature agreed to conduct a forensic audit of all state spending?

We may never know.

The Democrats in charge of the House and Senate haven’t let such proposals reach the floor for a vote.

Two years ago, a resolution was introduced in the House to require the state auditor to conduct a comprehensive audit.

The estimated cost: $60 million.

The estimated savings: $1.25 billion.

What an excellent return on investment that would be. But the elected officials in charge said no. And, if voters retain the status quo on Election Day, no comprehensive audits will be done for the foreseeable future.

All we have left is Jay Rowell and his stated desire to root out “waste, fraud and abuse.”

Hmm. Does anyone have a cloning machine?

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