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Investigator: O'Hare wasted money on technology upgrades

March 13, 2012, 10:11 am

The city of Chicago's inspector general recently reported the city's Department of Aviation wasted at least $171,000 on GPS tracking that did not work, as well as vehicle tracking technology that was rarely used.

Inspector General Joe Ferguson said the Aviation Department rushed its decision to implement the new technology, which proved to not be suitable for its purposes. The department also poorly managed and utilized the equipment once it was deployed, and it lacked a sufficient protocol to address any issues that arose from the upgrades.

In 2006 and 2007, the Department of Aviation purchased 155 GPS-equipped cellphones to track employees, tradespeople and support staff - costing about $43,197 annually. The GPS technology was installed on 53 vehicles, with expenses of $38,235 a year. In the 12-page report, Ferguson said that 68 percent of the cellphones and 62 percent of the vehicle tracking devices had never been used.

"The GPS did not function in certain underground areas of the airport and, once the employees resurfaced, the phones registered at the closest cell tower, which could be a long distance from where they actually were," Ferguson reported.

Further, the phones would be activated but would not register in the computer tracking system, and many supervisors failed to monitor or enforce employee use of the new technology. When the failures of the system were brought to the attention of the managers, they failed to remedy the situation, which led to $171,000 wasted over four years.

According to the Chicago Tribune, Rosemarie Andolino, the current aviation commissioner appointed by Mayor Richard Daley in April 2009, was in charge when the majority management oversight of the technology failed at the airport. Andolino said she noticed the technology was not working with the operations and disconnected GPS service for 122 department cellphones and 13 vehicles in fall 2011.

Both Andolino and Ferguson are recommending the Department of Aviation effectively deploy and utilize GPS technology throughout its operations, and comply with the city's mobile communications and GPS policies. The department should also ensure employees are held accountable for the technology assigned to them through managerial oversight, the Tribune reported.

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