Springfield correspondent for the Capital Information Bureau, a state radio news network, he has been covering the Illinois legislature for the past year and one half. Scrafin has a B. A. in communications and an M. A. in public affairs reporting from Sangarnon Slate University.

A watchful eye on state accounts:Auditor General Robert Cronson

ROBERT CRONSON is Illinois' first auditor general appointed by the General Assembly. Unless the veteran of Illinois government seriously falters, he will remain in his position for nine more years (a total of ten). Cronson was nominated to the position by the Legislative Audit Commission, under the provisions of the State Auditing Act {Illinois Revised Statutes 1973, Chapter 15, Section 301ff), and then appointed by a joint resolution of the Senate and House on August 1, 1974, as required by Article VIII, sec. 3 of the 1970 Constitution.

Elected to the position by the required three-fifths vote of the members elected to each house, Cronson can be removed from his $40,000 a year position only by the same vote. Like his predecessor David B. Thomas, who was appointed by Gov. Richard B. Ogilvie, Cronson is required and empowered to audit the public funds of the state. Cronson, who was serving as director of planning for Secretary of State Michael J. Hewlett at the time of his nomination, beat out Thomas and Gerald Porter, a former member of the Senate Republican staff. In the interview which follows, Cronson. who turned 51 this past September, discusses his professional and personal activities before becoming auditor general and explains his duties as chief watchdog over state funds.

Serafin: Could you say a little about your early career and your college days? Cronson: I attended the University of Michigan where I compiled a perfectly atrocious undergraduate record for about a year and a half, at which point the dean advised me that I would be well advised to enlist in the service because I was going to be kicked out of school anyway, so I joined the Marine Corps. After I got out of the Marine Corps. I went to Dartmouth College and graduated in 1947. In the fall of that year I entered the University ofChicago Law School and went right straight through and completed three years' work in about two years, finishing up in December of 1949.

TS: You started working in the secretary of state's office in 1953 as an examiner and gradually worked your way up to assistant secretary of stale—why did you leave?

RC: From examiner, I became chief examiner and after that the assistant securities commissioner, then the securities commissioner, and then the assistant secretary of state. That's where I was when Mr. [Charles F.] Carpentier [Secretary of State 1953-64] died in 1964. In 1964 I left government and with a few exceptions was out of it until 1973. I did a little consulting work off and on, and I served on some advisory committees for various people, and I handled some legislative work for my industry—but basically I was involved in investment banking business.

TS: That doesn't explain why you left.

RC: I had a chance to start an investment firm in Chicago. There were five of us, and we started the first new investment banking firm in Chicago in about 50 to 75 years. It has done pretty well. Today it has about 150 or 170 employees, and last year it was probably the only investment banking firm in America that made money.

TS: Do you still own part of it?

RC: No, one of the provisions of the Auditing Act is that the auditor general shall have no outside employment, so I have severed my connections with them.

TS: How did you get along with Secretary of State Carpentier?

RC: It was in 1958 and I was 34 years old when he made me the assistant secretary of state. Being so young, I thought it was a significant gesture of confidence, and he was in many way's like a father to me. I think he ha id a tremendous and lasting influence my life and quite frankly I loved him suppose it would be impossible for e to view any of the other people who have served in that office with any objectivity because of the way I feel about Charles Francis—as I occasionally calico him. Incidentally, he was a man nobody ever called Charlie or anything else. He was always called Mr. Secretary and somehow it came easy. He engendered that kind of respect and confidence.

TS: After a successful business venture. why return to stale government?

RC: I think that is part of the fascination of state government. I think my experience in the private sector is obviously limited to the years I spent practicing law and being in the investment banking business. Those years had


332/Illinois Issues/November 1975

Keeping track of how state funds are spent for the General Assembly is only part of the auditor general's job, says Cronson. More important is determining how well state agencies are performing

some legal overtones because one of the things I was responsible for was the compliance with federal and state regulations. But in the investment banking business when you're taking companies public, you have to get yourself involved in lots of other forms of business and industry, and you learn a great deal about them. I think one of the things that has given government a fatal charm for me, as unlike the private sector, is its constant challenge. Every day when you get up it is a whole new ball game—the operative conditions and circumstances change, the players change, the fiscal circumstances change—so that it is never dull. And the private sector, at least the area I was in, occasionally got rewarding fiscally but also occasionally got pretty dull.

TS: You received a great deal of criticism when you applied for the job of auditor general.

RC: It was quite a spirited contest. We started in December. The Audit Commission indicated that they would accept, in effect, applications. What we ail did was turn in resumes. The commission had worked out some ground rules under which they were going to evaluate the applicants and come up with a candidate or candidates. They ultimately decided to settle on one candidate and submit his name to the General Assembly for election by the General Assembly. That started in January and ultimately got resolved sometime late in June—very close to the end of the session. It was a long, arduous, tedious struggle; while it was going on I thought it was terrible, but now that it is all over it seems it was a lot of fun.

TS: The Chicago Tribune was less than positive about your candidacy. They even editorialized against it. What was your gut reaction to the Tribune's editorial?

RC: They were less than enchanted with my candidacy, yes. You can't make everybody happy. I was kind of fascinated by their editorial in which they said they were against me not because of any implication or indications of any impropriety I have ever been engaged in, or that I lack administrative competence, or that I didn't have every indication of ability to do a good job, but because I had been involved in politics too long. But I have to say to you frankly I regard that not as a liability, but as an asset for anyone who is going to be involved with a job which has the responsibility for reviewing the effectiveness of state government. I don't think you can hire a dog breeder to judge a cat show.

TS: Were you ever worried about not making it?

RC: Yes, I worried about it. I was reasonably confident that in time I would make it, because while nobody could get the requisite number of votes together—because it took eight votes of twelve [on the Audit Commission]—it really didn't seem to me that anyone else had enough votes together to even be a possible candidate. I thought that in time whatever additional votes I needed would probably come. I have to say in fairness to the members of the commission that none of them had any personal animosity against me, and I don't think there was one member there who was voting against Cronson. There were various commission members who, for whatever reason were supporting some other candidate in good conscience, which I can't quarrel with. Since the election and my taking office, every single one of the commission members has been more than cooperative and has given me every assistance and encouragement I could ask for. So, it has been a very happy relationship, and I think there have been no recriminations on their part.

TS: What does the auditor general do — as you see it?

RC: The auditor general's office as it used to exist was precipitated by Orville Hodge. As a result of the Hodge case, the legislature established the Legislative Audit Commission as a legislative agency overseeing the expenditure of funds. The legislature also created an executive appointed position designated as the auditor general who reported to and worked with the Audit Commission. In 1970, the people who wrote the Constitution reached the decision, which I think is infinitely wise, that the overseeing of the expenditure and conduct of state government should properly be in the hands of the people who make the policy judgments and make the appropriations to run state government—namely, the legislature.

TS: What's the advantage to being under the guidance of the legislature rather than the governor's office?

RC: It makes me completely independent of the government agencies under the governor. Secondly, the Illinois Auditing Act, when it was passed in 1973 to implement the changes in the 1970 Constitution, provided that the auditor general would no longer be limited simply to fiscal audits and had a broad range of audit activities. Audit may be an inappropriate word, but it is the one we use which falls under such designations as program audit, efficiency audit, evaluation audit, operation audit, all of which in broad terms are addressed not to where the money is going, but what kind of operation the agency is conducting or, more simply speaking how well is government operating. That is I think the important feature of this office today. That's not to say that we are going to abandon the fiscal audit program. We aren't. If anything, we hope to improve on it and expand it because 1 think an accounting of public funds is an absolute must for government. But I think in addition to accounting, we must have accountability which goes beyond money into the manner in which the agencies of government are performing their function: how well they're organized, staffed and administered, and whether what they're doing is consistent with legislative intent.

TS: I've been in your office now a couple of times. The first time Gerry Shea [House majority leader, D., Berwyn] called, and just a few minutes ago Bill Redmond [speaker of the House, D., Bensenville]. Why are the leaders calling you?

RC: We are a source of continuing information to the legislature, and our vehicle of communicating to the legislature is necessarily through the leadership. A copy of every audit report we write is sent to the leadership. Weagency overseeing the expenditure of take up any legislative problems we funds. The legislature also created an - ... executive appointed position designated as the auditor general who reported to and worked with the Audit Commission. In 1970, the people who wrote the Constitution reached the decision, which I think is infinitely wise, that the overseeing of the expenditure and conduct of state government shouldhave with the leadership or the

November 197 5/Illinois Issues/333

I like to make a distinction between political and partisan, and I do try to completely divorce myself from partisan considerations'

appropriate committee chairman. We are in a position of continuing relationship with the legislature. We are a legislative service agency.

TS: Where does the Audit Commission come in?

RC: We are directly responsible to the legislature and in some sense to the Legislative Audit Commission. First of all, either house of the legislature may by resolution direct us to take any specific audit, investigation or special study, and they would define the scope of whatever it would be. As a day-today working situation, it is obviously impossible to deal with 177 House members and 59 Senate members, so our day-to-day dealings are with the Audit Commission and through them with the legislature. Most of the things that we would take to the legislature we would take initially to the Legislative Audit Commission to secure its approval. If it met with approval, then we take it to the legislature, unless we were directed specifically by legislative resolution to undertake some activity and report back to the legislature.

TS: You recently completed a special efficiency audit on the Department of Public Aid. I believe you found some serious problems.

RC: Four or five things. Their internal accounting controls are inadequate, their records and record keeping procedures are inadequate, their organizational structure is not a result of a planned organizational effort to reach a specific set of objectives. It is rather a structure which has arisen in response to specific problems from time to time, and we have described it in our audit review as management by crisis rather than management by careful planning. Most of the findings would fit within those categories, but there are subcategories within them. In terms of managerial administration of personnel in the office, our report will probably include their use of management information systems and to some extent theiremployment of outside consulting agencies to perform evaluative functions and then not making use of results of those reports. We have broken it down into eight basic categories of difficulties that we think need attention and review and improvement. Beyond that it is impossible to explain in a few words. I don't want to get into the position of oversimplifying because it is not a simple problem. I think to try to say you can reduce this to a three-sentence description of what is wrong with the Public Aid Department is really an oversimplification and is not fair.

TS: Now what happens to your findings? It doesn't slop here, does it?

RC: We are not a policy-making agency; we are a fact-finding agency and a service agency to the legislature. It is our job to make these audits and operational reviews and investigations, and then report the facts to the legislature. What disposition the legislature chooses to make is up to the legislature, and the legislature's arm, the Legislative Audit Commission.

TS: Aren't state agencies required to conduct internal audits?

RC: I believe under Governor Ogilvie's administration, a statute was signed and became effective which requires certain specific agencies of state government to have an internal audit program. The governor was also authorized to designate other agencies for internal audit programs in addition to those enumerated in the statutes. I think the existence of an effective internal audit program within most of the agencies of state government would be terribly useful and terribly helpful in improving the administration of state government. Bear in mind that state government, unlike the private sector, is not a profit-seeking venture. The object is to develop and produce the maximum and best service to the people of Illinois for the least amount of dollars. So, the emphasis is not on whether you turn a profit or show a bottom-line black ink number, but whether you produce the best possible service to the citizens out of the number of dollars you have available. An effective internal audit program can make a great contribution to the ability of any agency to improve its administrative procedures, provide better performance and get more value for the dollar. It is going on in some agencies. We are going to have a continued emphasis on the internal audit.

TS: The General Assembly is a very political body, and how do you maintain integrity as the auditor general? How political is the auditor general?

RC: The word political has lots of meanings, and the institution of government is a political institution. I like to make a distinction between political and partisan, and 1 do try to completely divorce myself from partisan considerations. First of all, if you review the statutory background of this office and the requirements for it, it is obvious that it is intended that the occupant of this office be a bipartisan creature, somebody who is acceptable to and capable of dealing with both sides of the aisle. This is not to say that this office cannot be concerned with matters which are political as distinct from partisan because the whole institution of government is political and necessarily so in a democratic society. We simply do not have nonpolitical governmental institutions which are part of the woof and fabric of government. Sure, we attempt to stay out of the partisan thickets, but if a question has political overtones but is still a legitimate inquiry into the proper functioning of state government, it doesn't deter us from going into it.

TS: Which side of the aisle do you lean toward?

RC: I am not sure what I am. I was for many years a Republican and at one time I was quite active in Republican organization politics. I would not class myself as an independent these past 10 years because I think an independent is someone who has no political identification at all. If I had to, I'd identify myself as a bipartisan as distinct from a nonpartisan.

TS: It's not popular to be involved with politics today. How do you rate today's legislators — are there no longer any good, honest politicians?

RC: I would defend the proposition that 90 per cent of the members of the legislature are pretty high class, competent and conscientious men and women who are trying very hard to do a good job for their constituents. What is a good job for my constituents in my district is not necessarily a good job for your constituents in your district. There tends to be some public feeling that every legislator has an obligation to do that which is good for everybody's constituents in everybody's districts, but that is not the system that our form of government has built. As Winston Churchill said, "Democracy is the worst known form of government except for all other known forms of government."ť

334/Illinois Issues/November 1975

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