To The Editor:
Over the next month, there will be no other issue on the minds of people working at the state capitol than finding ways to help fill the state's budget hole. During times like these, it is essential that every penny of taxpayer money is looked at closely to ensure it is being spent wisely and efficiently. But as an audit recently found out, that's a pretty daunting task when state agencies are using hundreds of different non-interfacing accounting systems to accomplish this goal.
The Auditor General's report found that state agencies were using at least 263 different accounting systems and only 16 percent of those systems are compliant with Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP). Half of the systems are more than 10 years old and many were installed about a half century ago, and it takes our state more than a year to compile a final spending report.
What does this mean for our state?
The lack of centralized reporting systems harms our already-dismal bond rating and puts federal funds in serious jeopardy. The annual cost of maintaining our "archaic" systems was undeterminable, but most likely hovers around the $50 million mark, and for just 17 percent of systems, the cost of duplicative data entry was $11.3 million. That's tens of millions of dollars being wasted every year because of our non-centralized, outdated accounting systems.
I was so appalled at these findings and concerned that untimely reporting could potentially lose us federal matching money or result in fines for late reporting, that I called together a special Senate hearing to discuss possible solutions with the Comptroller's Office, the Auditor General, the Governor's Office and CMS. At the hearing, the Comptroller's office and the Governor's Office agreed to form a steering committee by May 4th to lay out a timeline to fix this problem.
The long-term savings achieved by upgrading these systems clearly won't fill the $1.2 billion budget shortfall entirely, but it's certainly a step in the right direction towards a more effective, leaner state government. I look forward to hearing the steering committee's suggestions and I will continue to share updates with Illinois taxpayers until we get our fiscal house in order.
Illinois State Senator Linda Holmes (D-Aurora)