State Auditor’s Office recommendations fall on deaf ears

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The Texas State Auditor’s Office found recently that nearly half of the recommendations made to state agencies and higher education institutions in the past 18 months had not been fully implemented.

A total of 212 recommendations were grouped into 61 report chapters in 15 performance audit reports issued between Sept. 1, 2015, and June 30, 2016, and since that time just 34 of the recommendations grouped by chapter had been fully implemented, meaning the agencies have successfully developed a process, system or policy to implement the recommendation.

The audited entities reported substantially implementing the recommendations in 10 cases (16.4 percent) and reported the implementation as ongoing or incomplete in 17 cases (27.9 percent). None were found to be in the dreaded tag of “not implemented,” meaning the agency would have thumbed its nose at the auditor’s office.

A representative of the auditor’s office told The Texas Monitor on background that there’s no magical percentage that would be considered satisfactory, and pointed out that it’s not uncommon for recommendations to take more than a year to fully implement, particularly if the suggestion pertains to processes involving information technology.

The agency faring worst was the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, which reported all four of its recommended improvements were incomplete.

Most problems with criminal justice dealt with uniform recordkeeping and the accuracy of records. For example, a flaw in the corrections tracking system doesn’t require an incident number on criminal records. Since the information field isn’t mandatory, the practice results in sloppy recordkeeping, auditors found.

Errors are creating problems in criminal justice, as well. Auditors randomly selected 25 of the 5,452 records that couldn’t be matched between the corrections tracking system and the Department of Public Safety’s computerized criminal history system. Those examiners found that all 25 had some sort of error that prevented a match, from incorrect offense codes to erroneous state ID numbers to – yes – incorrect incident numbers.

Jason Clark, director of public information for criminal justice, told The Texas Monitor all of the auditor’s recommendations should be fully implemented by the summer.

“The four recommendations in the report contain 12 sub-recommendations, most of which are complete,” he said. “The others are ongoing and some require additional computer programming.”

The Office of the Comptroller of Public Accounts didn’t fare much better, only fully implementing three of eight recommendations, with three reported as incomplete or ongoing.

State auditors double-checked the work, and found that nine of 10 random examples of recommendations reported to be fully implemented actually were. In the lone outlier, a recommendation made to the Employees Retirement System was at least substantially implemented. Auditors found that ERS inaccurately applied its procedures for ensuring the accurate reallocation of state group insurance contributions due to junior colleges.

Johnny Kampis can be reached at jkampis@texasmonitor.org.

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