Chicago DOB still needs to fix broken inspection process: report


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Dive Brief:

  • Chicago’s Department of Buildings hasn’t fixed issues that let projects move through the approval process without proper inspections, the city’s Office of Inspector General said in a June 5 report. 
  • The OIG’s findings follow an August 2022 audit that first identified the issue. In a review of permits issued between Jan.1, 2017, and Dec. 31, 2019, the OIG highlighted 42 buildings that lacked inspections, but were fully built. The agency found that for these buildings, DOB completed only 198, or 49.7%, of the 398 required inspections. Of those, only 11 structures, or 3%, received passing marks.
  • In November 2023, the watchdog agency gave DOB recommendations on how to fix its process, a call that the department hasn’t answered, according to the follow-up report.

Dive Insight:

In Chicago, the onus for scheduling required inspections falls on contractors, per the 2022 report. Other municipalities, such as New York City, follow the same mode.

The 42 fully constructed buildings that OIG reviewed included 35 single-family homes, some of which had already been bought and sold, per the 2022 audit. None of the buildings required certificates of occupancy, per the audit, as the watchdog noted DOB ensured buildings that required such notes received the necessary inspections.

While DOB consistently performed requested inspections, it didn’t use available data to identify situations where permit holders didn’t request them, per the report. 

Suggestions for corrective measures in the second report include: 

  • Develop procedures to ensure completion of required inspections before a building is fully constructed. 
  • Train staff to maintain data in an effective and consistent manner.
  • Proactively monitor issued permits, and improve data quality to support thorough and accurate monitoring of those permits and evaluation of program performance.
  • Consider alternative procedures to ensure that permit holders request inspections, such as requiring that a wider variety of buildings receive certificates of occupancy.

Those four recommendations have not been implemented by the DOB, according to the report. It also noted that the building agency’s response to the inquiry has been focused on building a system for the future, rather than fixing the current one.

“By DOB’s own account, it has been working ‘for decades’ on the implementation of the new system,” the OIG’s office wrote in the follow-up report. “Therefore, OIG continues to urge DOB to develop procedures to identify required inspections and ensure that it completes them, whether the procedures are supported by the current system or the expected system.” 

The DOB didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.



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