State's surplus property vs. buying new

State's surplus property vs. buying new

SPRINGFIELD -- State agencies are defending their buying habits when it comes to office furniture.
SPRINGFIELD -- State agencies are defending their buying habits when it comes to office furniture. The state is spending millions, sometimes buying big ticket items. WCIA-3's Steve Staeger confronts some of the biggest spenders because You Paid for It.

If you think of state government like a family, this is where you'd find all the hand-me-downs. It's the Illinois Surplus Property Division; a warehouse filled with used state goods. Most of it is waiting for new owners.

"This program, State Surplus Property, is free to state agencies."

Curtis Howard keeps track of the chairs, desks and filing cabinets here.

"We've had about 4,500 items of furniture, tables, desks, chairs turned into the warehouse floor. Approximately 1,300 of those have gone back into service the past 12-months."

He says it's the first place state agencies should turn when they need new stuff. Despite it being free, some state departments are still spending thousands of dollars buying new things.

"We're always mindful of any cost-saving measures we can implement, and we've been extremely aggressive in that regard."

Henry Haupt is with the Secretary of State. It's the only agency which would sit down with WCIA-3 News. During the past two fiscal years, the Secretary of State spent about $95,000 on new office furniture.

"It is a top priority of ours to be mindful of how we obtain the furniture and our goal is to always, when possible, use the surplus supply. As I said, it's only a last resort when we have to purchase it from an outside entity."

It's easy to see the department certainly uses surplus. Everything with a red "X" comes from surplus. Also, the department is so large, it even has its own warehouse of used stuff.

Neither the Comptroller's Office nor IDOT would discuss the issue on camera. In a statement, each said they use surplus whenever they can, but they all agree there are times surplus doesn't have what they need.

"You absolutely should be utilizing this program if you're looking into any type of furniture in state government. However, based on the condition of property that's coming through our door, I would suspect that most agencies, once they view what's on the floor, decides to keep what they have."

Still, the amounts spent on new furniture don't add up to some watchdog groups. They say this investigation should serve as a wake-up call.

"Illinois is in a crisis, and when you're in a crisis, your entire attitude needs to change. The fact that they're still spending so much money on office furniture just goes to show reality has not sunk in and old habits are prevailing. But, they've got to change, if we are going to dig out of this hole."

The Secretary of State says it's not buying furniture for employees, but also for the public. Think of the last time you had to get your license renewed. Might have been a little rougher without a place to sit.
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