State child support tab baloons : LUSENET : TB2K spinoff uncensored : One Thread


By Christi Parsons and Ryan Keith Tribune Staff Writers April 12, 2000

SPRINGFIELD By the end of June, Illinois will have spent $31.4 million on its dysfunctional child-support unit based in DuPage County, nearly three times the original cost estimate, state officials said Tuesday.

As much as $5 million was dedicated solely to fixing problems within the system.

Though DuPage was paid millions to set up the unit, the state has been forced to hire an outside management team, assign state employees to bail out backlogged county workers, set up a telephone hot line to receive complaints, and contract with an outside firm to update thousands of incorrect names and addresses in the unit's computer system.

Department of Public Aid director Ann Patla is asking the legislature to allocate an extra $20 million in this year's budget to cover the unexpected costs. The request passed the Senate last week and is pending in the House.

"At this point, we know a great deal of cleanup needs to be done," Patla said. "But the whole process is on the right road."

Faced with a federal mandate to create a statewide clearinghouse for collecting and distributing child-support checks, the state last year signed an $8.5 million contract with DuPage Circuit Clerk Joel Kagann to run the operation out of his office. It also set aside $2.9 million for associated costs.

But the unit flopped from its first week in operation last October, delivering child-support payments late and leaving thousands of families in the lurch.

Over the winter, Public Aid officials increased Kagann's contract by $10 million to provide money for emergency payments to families whose checks had been lost in the system. Though Kagann had 50 workers on hand when the unit opened, officials later determined they needed 210 to do the job correctly, driving the cost up another $2.5 million.

Despite the additional money and a phalanx of state workers reassigned temporarily to help Kagann, the unit continued to founder.

Last month the state hired the private firm of Deloitte & Touche for $1 million to take over the operation until the state can find a new full-time contractor, who would assume responsibility around the first of the year.

In addition, the state paid $600,000 to a computer firm to "scrub" the faulty data in the computer system, such as incorrect names and addresses, and financed a $53,000 audit of the troubled unit by Bank One.

But the largest cost overrun came in the form of $10 million in emergency payments to families whose checks were lost, Patla said. Officials don't know whether they will try to recoup that money.

Patla said she expected the cost overruns to spill into the fiscal year that begins July 1. She estimates the cost of running the unit next year will amount to about $19.7 million.

One critic of the system called the new figures staggering.

"That's unbelievable that they could have been $22 million off," said Rep. Mary Kay O'Brien (D-Coal City). "That's not in the same neighborhood as a cost overrun.",1575,SAV-0004120113,00.html

-- - (, April 12, 2000


Why should this be a surprise to anyone? What social engineering program has been kept within its original limits/estimates?

-- ReallyShould (, April 12, 2000.

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