$15 Million in Waste Cut From Chicago Hired Truck Program
Chicago taxpayers will see at least $15 million in waste slashed from the scandal-plagued Hired Truck Program, in the wake of a Chicago Sun-Times investigation spotlighting widespread fraud and corruption, according to the Chicago Sun-Times newspaper.The city will spend less than $23 million to hire trucks and drivers this year, down from $38.5 million last year, city officials announced November 5."We know we're going to save more than $15 million this year,'' said Lisa Schrader, spokeswoman for Mayor Daley's Budget Director John Harris, who oversees the Hired Truck Program. This is $5 million more than the city has previously acknowledged. The savings may be even greater, Schrader said, since the city is hiring 50 percent fewer trucks than it did before the Sun-Times investigation. The city hired 400 trucks a day last year, but only 200 trucks were used on a daily basis this summer. And the city expects it will use no more than 100 trucks a day during the winter. Chicago spent $1.5 million on Hired Trucks in August, the height of the construction season. Based on that rate of spending, the Hired Truck program would cost no more than $18 million annually. So far, seven people — five of them former recent city employees — have been named in criminal complaints in the ongoing federal investigation of the Hired Truck Program, sparked by the Sun-Times series in January. Federal authorities have found systemic corruption in the program, where many trucking firm owners had to pay bribes to city officials to get work. The bribe paying was first reported by the Sun-Times in the January series. The articles showed how many of the most successful firms in the program either had clout or ties to organized crime figures. In response to the series, Daley tossed 165 firms out of the program and made them reapply under what he called tougher rules. About 70 companies have gotten into the revamped Hired Truck Program. So far, nine companies have been sidelined, but the city refuses to say why.