People are used to the political spin that government agencies put on their work to make things look good. But a recent report by state Auditor General William Holland shows that a state economic development agency wasn't just exaggerating its role on generating employment, it was essentially making it up out of whole cloth.
Holland's report indicated the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity exaggerated by nearly 78,000 the number of full-time jobs created in a recent 12-month period.
Department managers counted projected new jobs as jobs created instead of identifying the actual number of jobs created. They counted individuals who underwent job training as jobs that were created or retained, with no mention of whether the individuals already had jobs or were in danger of losing their jobs.
It's possible, of course, that the production of the misleading numbers, all attesting to the department's stellar performance, was inadvertent, the result of extraordinary incompetence in record-keeping. Auditors said they found mistakes in addition, information that was missing and documents with conflicting information.
But they also found the department used questionable definitions to measure performance, and that doesn't sound like an accident. It sounds dishonest.
Department director Jack Lavin wisely accepted audit recommendations but contends that "the taxpayers can have confidence they're getting a good return on their investment."
Why? The department's own numbers have been repudiated.
The Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity handed out $850 million in grants in the 2004 fiscal year, and auditors found limited reporting on the results of the funded projects and little follow-up. It appears state officials just handed handed out the cash and then headed to the next photo opportunity. No wonder they made up the numbers.