Weather Updates

City watchdog: Airports blew $171k on GPS devices that didn’t work

Updated: May 9, 2012 10:20AM

Chicago’s Department of Aviation blew at least $171,000 on GPS-equipped cell phones and vehicles with tracking devices that either did not work or were never used, the inspector general concluded Thursday.

Inspector General Joe Ferguson concluded that Aviation leadership over a four-year period spanning three commissioners “rushed to implement technology that did not suit its purposes, failed to fully utilize the equipment and failed to promptly or effectively resolve issues as they arose.”

In 2006 and 2007, the department purchased 155 GPS-equipped cellphones to track facilities employees, tradespeople and support staff at an annual cost of $43,197. GPS locators were installed on 53 vehicles, at a cost of $38,235 a year.

But in a 12-page report released Thursday, Ferguson concluded that 68 percent of the cellphones and 62 percent of the vehicle tracking devices had never been used.

“Problems with the GPS phones became apparent immediately. 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 wrote.

“In addition, phones would be activated but would not register in the [computer tracking] system. . . . One IT employee opined that the GPS technology is a waste of money as it does not work inside the terminals and many supervisors do not bother to monitor or enforce their employees’ use of the technology.”

Top managers were made aware of the failures almost immediately but did nothing to remedy the problem. Yet, they continued to pay for the service, wasting at least $171,000 over four years, the inspector general concluded.

Aviation Commissioner Rosemarie Andolino has responded to the report by disconnecting GPS service for 122 cellphones and 13 vehicles.

© 2014 Sun-Times Media, LLC. All rights reserved. This material may not be copied or distributed without permission. For more information about reprints and permissions, visit To order a reprint of this article, click here.