Frerichs Puts Scholarships On Hold

Apr 27, 2015

Illinois Treasurer Michael Frerichs at his inauguration in January. He is celebrating his 100th day in office this week.
Credit Brian Mackey/WUIS

A scholarship program run by the state treasurer's office is on hold. For about a decade, the treasurer's office has given out scholarships. It's a program associated with the Bright Start college savings program.

Treasurer Michael Frerichs ordered an independent review upon taking over the office in January. The report found there aren't proper rules to determine how the treasurer should award the scholarship money.

On top of that, he says there was no follow up. Only about half of the scholarships have been used.

Though he didn't directly name any of his predecessors, Frerichs -- a Democrat -- was critical of the program.

"Although hundreds of scholarships have been awarded, these scholarships are absent of basic rules governing proper record keeping, management and distribution," he said. "New policies and procedures need to be set to restore the integrity of the scholarship program and ensure a fair, transparent process."

The program may be reinstated once rules are put in place, but Frerichs didn't say how long that could take.

The report also found a lack of formal policies for a paid internship program and unclaimed property.

The Illinois treasurer's office is responsible for the state's unclaimed property, which totals about $2 billion. An independent review of the office says the property lacks inventory control and adequate security.

Frerichs says that needs to change.

"There were other, some other problems with logging of all of the materials and being a little late and delayed in doing that," he said. "We've not lost any faith in any of the employees, but we find the best way to make sure you have honest employees is to make sure that you have proper internal controls."

Unclaimed property includes forgotten safe deposit boxes, stocks and bonds. After at least 10 years, the state puts the items up for auction and transfers the money to the State University Retirement System for pensions.

Frerichs says he will work on improving the performance and efficiency of the treasurer's office in the coming years.

Frerichs' predecessor Dan Rutherford was sued by a former employee for sexual harassment. Frerichs refused to comment on the ongoing case.