Chicago wasted $171,000

Chicago wasted $171,000 on GPS service, tracking technology

By Jon Hilkevitch
Tribune reporter
3:41 PM EST, March 8, 2012

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Chicago aviation officials wasted at least $171,000 on GPS-capable cell phone service that didn’t work inside terminals at O’Hare International Airport and on vehicle-tracking technology that was hardly ever used, the city’s inspector general reported Thursday.

The probe covered 2008 through 2010, over the terms of three commissioners at the Chicago Department of Aviation, according to Inspector General Joseph Ferguson.

The bulk of the failure to exercise proper oversight of the electronic equipment happened under the watch of Rosemarie Andolino, the current aviation commissioner who Mayor Richard M. Daley appointed in April 2009.

Andolino agreed with the inspector general’s findings and disconnected global-positioning system service for 122 department cell phones and 13 vehicles in the fall of 2011, Ferguson said.

The $171,000 misspent on little-used GPS-related contracts does not include bills extending into 2011 because the inspector general’s review ended in 2010, said Jonathan Davey, spokesman for Ferguson. “The $171,000 represents the floor, not the ceiling,’’ Davey said.

In 2006 and 2007, the department purchased 155 GPS-capable cell phones and installed GPS locators on 53 vehicles.

The aviation department spent an estimated $248,000 on GPS tracking services for cell phones and vehicles between 2008 and 2010, the report said. Almost 70 percent of the GPS-capable equipment reviewed by the inspector general – 105 cell phones and 34 vehicles – never used the GPS services, leading to the waste.

The department “never used the vast majority of its GPS equipment because the technology did not work in airport terminals and did not meet the (department’s) needs, yet the (department) continued to pay for these GPS services,’’ Ferguson’s report said.

“In addition to the GPS function going unused, there were no records showing the phone itself had ever been used,’’ the report said.

Andolino agreed to implement a series of recommendations made by Ferguson that include effectively using GPS technology, complying with the city’s mobile communications and GPS policies and ensuring that aviation department employees are held accountable for the technology that is assigned to them.

Ferguson stopped short of recommending disciplinary action.

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