1995 Legislative Audits


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1. Summary of Report 95-01: APPLIED TECHNOLOGY EDUCATION PROGRAMS

State officials need to be more aggressive in monitoring the effectiveness and efficiency of applied technology programs than they have been in the past. Some programs have a very low number of graduates placed in employment related to their field of study. However, most graduates of applied technology programs do find related employment. Uniform cost and placement procedures need to be adopted so that individual programs can be regularly monitored.

This audit responds to questions raised by several legislators concerning the efficiency and effectiveness of the applied technology programs taught at the colleges and applied technology centers (ATCs), the governance of the system, and the fairness of the current approach for funding applied technology education. Specifically, legislators want to know whether graduating students are effectively placed in related employment and if program costs are reasonable. In addition, questions relating to the governance of applied technology were raised out of concern by legislators over the apparently overlapping roles of the college and ATC programs.

Full Report -Applied Technology Education Programs

2. Summary of Report 95-02: STATE TAX COMMISSION

We believe that in most instances the Tax Commission provides adequate due process to protect taxpayer rights by providing adequate notice and an opportunity to be heard. However, improvements are possible in the timeliness and consistency with which disputed tax assessments are resolved. Better defined organizational roles and procedures can help produce improvements, but management must comply with existing controls.

By its nature, the Tax Commission is one of the most controversial state agencies. Its mission is to collect revenue for state and local governments and to equitably administer tax laws. In requiring the public to pay taxes, the commission has a public trust to ensure that taxpayers are treated fairly. Individual taxpayers in tax disputes with the Tax Commission rely on due process to prevent the government from illegally taking their property. At the same time, Tax Commission processes need to protect the interests of other taxpayers by ensuring that everybody pays their fair share of taxes. The interests of governments that depend on tax revenue also must be protected.

Full Report -Utah State Tax Commission

3. Summary of Report 95-03: CORRECTIONS THERAPY PROGRAMS

We have completed our review of five issues related to treatment of offenders within the state's correctional system and list our findings below. We found:

1. No evidence that treatment was withheld from sex offenders because the offenders refused to admit to committing crimes other than the crimes of their conviction.
2. Some duplication of therapy between the prison and halfway houses, but in our opinion the duplication is justified.
3. Evidence that corrections' officials were giving halfway house parole violators adequate chances to change their behavior before they were sent back to prison.
4. Studies of prison treatment programs that show promising results in reducing recidivism, but these studies are not conclusive.
5. Statutory provisions that indicate that prison management has discretion in whether they allow inmates to hire their own therapist while incarcerated.

Full Report -Corrections Therapy Programs

4. Summary of Report 95-04: CHILD WELFARE OUTCOME MEASURES

We have reviewed the Division of Family Service's (DFS) initial attempts to develop outcome measures as required by House Bill 265. Among other requirements, House Bill 265 (1994 General Legislative Session) requires DFS to "... develop quantifiable outcome measures for the key elements of each area in the child welfare system, including foster care and other substitute care, child protective services, and adoption." It also requires the Director of DFS to submit these outcome measures to the Legislative Auditor General for review before the measures are finalized.

DFS is still developing and finalizing the outcome measures. They are developing outcome measures in the following ten program areas: Adoption, Child Protection Services, Consumer/Client Satisfaction, Foster Care, Health Care, Home-based Services, Independent Living, Shelter Care, Training and Youth Services. We have reviewed the initial drafts and given DFS management our input. The measures proposed and reviewed by our office appear reasonable. The measures should be finalized by October 1995 at which time our office will review the information and provide you with a follow-up letter. Besides not finalizing their outcome measures, DFS has not yet determined how outcome measures will be used by management and staff within each region and how this information will be collected.

Full Report -Child Welfare Outcome Measures

5. Summary of Report 95-05: UTAH WATER LOAN PROGRAM

This study focuses on issues surrounding the state's water loan program. In general, our study found that many of the issues pertaining to the water loan program are contingent upon the Legislature's intended objective for the program. Policy decisions regarding the level of assistance the state should provide for water development, the size of the state's water loan program, and how the program is funded will all impact the direction of the program.

Specifically, our review of financing approaches available for use in the water loan program concluded that given the same amount of state funding, more water projects can be financed with interest rate buy-downs than revolving-loans; buy-downs require fewer state dollars to finance the same number of projects as revolving-loans; and if funded at the same level as the revolving-loan program, buy-downs can be used to maintain a balance of funds in the program. Revolving-loans maintain a balance of funds in the program; provide convenient financing to communities unable to access the market; and allow state agencies flexibility in extending and restructuring loan terms.

Our review of funding methods concluded that the Legislature should consider alternative funding methods that have been proposed to supply capital to the water loan program. And our review of consolidation of the four water boards concluded that consolidation would probably not result in significantly greater efficiency.

Full Report -Department of Environmental Quality

6. Summary of Report 95-06: DEPARTMENT OF ENVIRONMENTAL QUALITY

The Utah Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) has grown substantially since 1990, developing from a state division into a full-fledged department. Growth in both budget and staff have primarily been in response to national Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) directives and some state-sponsored legislation.

DEQ has grown out of necessity to accommodate new federal requirements, however, there are changes taking place federally that may signal a new direction for state environmental policy. The EPA is undergoing philosophical changes that will affect DEQ in both funding and programs administration.

It is possible that the state will gain more authority and responsibility for programs but be less able to rely on federal funding, thus making it necessary for the state to find new ways of paying for programs. In anticipation of these changes, the state should begin exploring new funding mechanisms and identifying environmental priorities. As part of this process, the DEQ should pay close attention to local needs and rethink methods of service delivery and agency organization to better serve the citizens Utah.

Full Report -Utah Water Loan Programs

7. Summary of Report 95-07: BUREAU OF SERVICES REVIEW

We found that the Bureau of Services Review (BSR) within the Department of Human Services is doing a good job of monitoring Division of Family Services (DFS) compliance with the legal and procedural requirements of the state's child welfare system. While the BSR has done a good job of checking for specific, procedural compliance with legal and other requirements, BSR reviewers do not reach an overall conclusion on each individual case about whether the child was protected from abuse or neglect, whether adequate services were provided to preserve the family and whether a permanent home was found for the child in a timely manner. While reporting on compliance technically adheres to the legislative requirements, strict compliance reporting does not give the Legislature and others a direct evaluation of what is most important to the state's child welfare system.

The BSR reviews can become more useful to the Legislature, DFS management, and the public if the reviewers report their conclusion about whether the child was protected, adequate services were provided to preserve the family and whether a permanent family was provided in a timely manner on each case reviewed. By expanding the reviews to cover these areas, the BSR can show what the worker has or has not done in protecting the child and preserving the family, and can identify specific areas where improvement should occur. In addition, the BSR's review process itself will be more consistent if the BSR conducts a second review of a sample of cases.

Full Report -Bureau of Services Review

8. Summary of Report 95-08: DEPARTMENT OF HUMAN SERVICES' ADMINISTRATIVE BUREAUS

The administrative bureaus within the Department of Human Services provide important supportive services that are essential to the success of the department's divisions and offices. Although there has been some growth in the number of administrative staff, we found that the growth was reasonable. In addition, we also verified that each function within the department's administrative bureaus is needed. For this reason, we recommend that the Human Services Interim Study Committee reauthorize the bureaus under the terms of the Utah Sunset Act.

Although the department's employees seem to be very dedicated, the divisions and offices could be more effective if they had better support from the department's four administrative bureaus. For example, in the area of budgeting and accounting, the divisions and offices are not receiving the support and guidance they need to maintain adequate control over their financial affairs. In addition, the department's agencies are investing heavily in computer technology but are not receiving the guidance and technical support they need to make sure the systems will function correctly. We also found that the Bureau of Human Resources needs to place a higher priority on conducting recruitments and reviewing position classifications. To address these problems, the department needs to strengthen the four administrative bureaus and elevate their status within the organization.

Full Report -Dept. of Human Services' Administrative Bureaus

9. Summary of Report 95-09: SUPPORT OF CHILDREN IN STATE CARE

Our review found that parents being assessed child support for their children in the state's custody or care are paying about 48 percent of the total amount due on a monthly basis. Thirty percent of the open cases for the four divisions charging child support are in the collection function at the Office of Recovery Services (ORS).

Steps can be taken to improve the overall collection process within the Department of Human Services (DHS) to get more cases into collection. More cooperation is needed between the various divisions for which ORS collects child support payments and the ORS regarding the flow of court orders for children in care. To increase cooperation between these agencies and the ORS, the Department of Human Services should make clear its commitment to the principle of collecting financial support from parents and promote a more collaborative effort between division staff and the ORS.

Increased cooperation and communication should result in increased collections. We estimated a $187,000 annual increase in collections for custody cases is possible if more court orders are provided to ORS. Finally, the ORS can make some improvements in its internal processes for obtaining court orders.

Full Report -Support of Children in State Care

10. Summary of Report 95-10: GUARDIAN AD LITEM FOLLOW-UP

Legislators wanted us to determine what progress has been made in implementing the recommendations made in our prior report and report any other areas of concern. We found that the state's Guardian Ad Litem program is improving. The state administrator is developing a needed management information system and the guardian attorneys report they are spending more time with children in foster care. However, certain passages of the recently passed legislation outlining the GAL's duties are unclear and the statutes may need some clarification and modification.

Full Report -Guardian Ad Litem Follow-up Report