1996 Legislative Audits


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1. Summary of Report 96-01: ANTI-DISCRIMINATION DIVISION

This report addresses a number of issues related to the administration and enforcement of employment discrimination law. The Utah Anti-discrimination Act defines illegal employment discrimination and provides an administrative process to address alleged violations of the law. The Utah Industrial Commission, including its Anti-discrimination Division (UADD) and its Adjudication Division, receives, mediates, investigates, and adjudicates allegations of illegal employment discrimination. In our opinion, some parts of the anti-discrimination system operate well, while others need significant improvements. Our main findings are listed below.

1. Minor improvements can be made in Intake and Alternative Dispute Resolution
2. Management control is needed for Investigations
3. Legislature should allow UADD to participate in formal hearings
4. Legislative changes could control withdrawals Legislature should examine organizational structure

Full Report -Utah Anti-discrimination Division

2. Summary of Report 96-02: SCHOOL TEXTBOOKS AND SUPPLIES

At the request of the Joint Majority Leadership, we conducted an audit of school textbooks and supplies. Leadership was concerned because textbooks and instructional supplies are generally represented to be in short supply and, as a result, the Legislature is continually being asked to appropriate additional money for these items.

We concluded that there may be a spending crisis in textbooks and supplies within the larger districts. The smaller districts seemed more satisfied. Further, we concluded that public education's reported minimum expenditure requirement regarding district textbook and supply expenditures is not accurate. In addition, the requirement may promote district spending inequities on a per student basis because of the add-ons to the weighted pupil unit. As a result, meeting the minimum expenditure requirement cannot be used to justify the need for additional textbook and supply money. Finally, we found that the funds given to teachers to help them buy supplies in fiscal years 1994 and 1996 were accounted for appropriately and appear to have been spent according to legislative intent.

Full Report -School Textbooks and Supplies

3. Summary of Report 96-03: HIGHER EDUCATION ISSUES

Our office conducted a survey of the issues in higher education outlined by the requestor. Unfortunately, our research found that sufficient data does not currently exist to adequately address most of the questions raised. In addition, we have concerns with some of the data that does exist because of weaknesses in the data collection process. We found that some of the available data relies on self-reporting mechanisms in the data collection process. Nevertheless, in spite of these shortcomings, we have attempted to provide as much information as possible on each issue, noting the weaknesses in the data where appropriate.

Overall we found that there seems to be a basic philosophical disagreement over the purpose of higher education. Some argue that the purpose of higher education is to provide students with the training and specific technical skills necessary to get a job. However, others believe the role of higher education also includes providing students with a broad-based learning experience in a wide variety of subjects to develop well-rounded individuals. It is doubtful that this age-old debate will soon end. In some cases, having a college education is more a measure of social status than a calculated stepping-stone in building a career. Society (particularly in Utah) appears to have determined long ago that the value of higher education is obvious, that the marginal value gained from higher education is greater than most alternatives.

Full Report -Higher Education Isues

4. Summary of Report 96-04: EXEMPT POSITIONS

We have collected information about the expanded definition of exempt positions resulting from the implementation of House Bill 330 in 1994. House Bill 330 modified the executive branches' Schedule AD exemption definition and created the Schedule AR exemption for the executive branch. We noted that the definition for Schedule AR, which allows an exempt classification if the position has statewide policy-making authority, was interpreted broadly and differently by departments. These different departmental interpretations may have exempted positions not intended by the Legislature. As a result, it is possible that the Legislature might wish to write a more specific definition for Schedule AR exemptions or instruct the Department of Human Resource Management (DHRM) to do so.

Because of House Bill 330's expanded definition of exempt positions, an increase of 88 exempt positions occurred. Since exempt positions are considered by employees to have a greater risk of removal than career service positions, the Legislature instructed the DHRM to provide incentives to encourage affected employees to voluntarily change from career service status to exempt status. Since July 1994, these incentives have cost the state $104,600 in on-going and one-time costs. In addition, the state has also incurred, since July 1994, $65,800 in severance costs resulting from employees being discharged without cause from their exempt position. The fiscal note on House Bill 330 did not anticipate any implementation costs.

Full Report -Exempt Positions

5. Summary of Report 96-05: DIVISION OF INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY SERVICES

Our audit reviewed significant information technology related activities throughout the state. As a result, we reviewed the responsibilities and functions of the state Chief Information Officer as well as the activities of various institutions of higher education relative to purchasing of equipment, long-distance telephone service, and maintenance of desktop computer equipment. We also reviewed purchasing practices of agencies within the executive branch, an activity over which ITS has no authority.

Our findings indicate that ITS is generally providing services as directed by statute. However, they could improve in the areas of customer service and customer relations. Also, we believe the division should more accurately determine and document the cost of some services they provide. In addition, and external to ITS, we found the need for greater control and coordination in the areas of desktop computer equipment purchasing, long distance telephone service, and maintenance of desktop equipment. We believe greater control and coordination through the state Chief Information Officer is necessary.

Full Report -Division of Information and Technology Services

6. Summary of Report 96-06: CENTENNIAL SCHOOL PROGRAM

In response to a legislative request, we reviewed the Centennial School program in the Strategic Planning Section of the Utah State Office of Education (USOE). The program will have a surplus balance of nearly $452,000 at the end of fiscal year 1997, repeating past surpluses.

We also have identified some administrative areas where efficiency can be improved, including the need for changes to the oversight of the budget and expenditure areas and the need to automate the computation and record keeping of Centennial School awards. In addition, we have concerns with the way in which an outside evaluator of the Centennial School program was obtained.

Several program issues also need attention. First, after conducting an extended survey, we have determined that a full review of Centennial School program effectiveness is impractical at this time. This is because the USOE has not identified measurable program outcomes and because several factors prevent the isolation of Centennial School program effect from the effect of other programs. Second, we believe there is confusion over just what the Centennial School designation means; the USOE needs to more clearly define whether the program rewards attainment of a certain level of excellence or provides incentive for attempting systemic educational reform. Finally, we found that schools and districts are generally pleased with their relationship with USOE staff who coordinate the Centennial School program, but that some have concerns that the application process is lengthy and difficult.

Full Report -Centennial School Program

7. Summary of Report 96-07: COUNTY REVENUES FROM STATE AND FEDERAL SOURCES

We reviewed the county revenues for three county administered programs in the state. Specifically, the programs we reviewed were Mental Health, Substance Abuse, and Aging. The audit request stated that there were concerns with the equitable allocation of funding in these programs. We conducted limited testing to produce the per-capita figures that were requested.

Formula revenues appear to be allocated equitably among the counties. The rural differential accounts for the variance that does exist, as more dollars per-capita are allocated to the less populated counties. Non-formula funds account for the biggest difference in county per-capita revenues in Mental Health. This money does not go through the formula, but is allocated on either a patient by patient, fee for service, lump-sum or contract basis.

Full Report -County Revenues from State and Federal Sources

8. Summary of Report 96-08: FOSTER CARE CITIZEN REVIEW PANELS

As required by Utah Code 78-3g-102(6), we have conducted a sunset review of the Foster Care Citizen Review Panel pilot project. Utah's child welfare system has been subject to much public interest and legislative reform in recent years. As part of that reform effort, the Legislature established Foster Care Citizen Review Panels (CRP) to increase program accountability by having an independent panel review the cases of children in foster care.

Citizen review panels are groups of citizen volunteers not associated with the Division of Child and Family Services (DCFS) that periodically review the cases of children in foster care. The reviews focus on whether the children are receiving appropriate services, whether the parents are complying with the service plan, and whether progress is being made towards achieving a permanent placement. In this audit, we compared the citizen review process with the administrative review process (within DCFS) which also focuses on the same types of issues.

The following identifies the main findings of this audit:

1. Review type does not affect time in care or number of placements.
2. Citizen review panels enhance caseworker accountability and promote positive case outcomes.
3. Citizen review reporting process needs to be more timely.

Full Report -Foster Care Citizens Review Panels

9. Summary of Report 96-09: BUREAU OF SERVICES REVIEW

As required by the Utah Code, we conducted our review of the Bureau of Services Review (BSR) within the Department of Human Services. Utah's child welfare system has been subject to much public interest and legislative reform. As part of that reform effort, the Legislature established the Bureau of Services Review within the Department of Human Services to monitor compliance with legislative and legal mandates. Our office conducted a previous audit of BSR (Report #95-07). In our prior review we found that BSR was doing a good job of monitoring the Division of Child and Family Services (DCFS) but was not specifically reporting on how well the system was protecting children from abuse or neglect and preserving families.

In this audit, the Legislature wanted us to not only report on BSR's performance but also on whether the state's child welfare system is improving. Our current audit found that BSR is accurately reporting compliance in most cases with requirements of the David C. et al. v. Leavitt lawsuit settlement agreement, current legislation, and DCFS policy. BSR has also incorporated performance aspects into their review as recommended in our previous audit. However, we note areas where BSR's ratings need more definitions and clarifications. Finally, we found that some child welfare system outcome measures have shown improvement since our 1993 audit of that system (Report #93-06).

Full Report -Bureau of Services Review

10. Summary of Report 96-10: FACT INITIATIVE AND AT-RISK PROGRAMS

Utah's Legislature has, within the Utah Code, addressed a number of specific behavioral problems that can prevent a child from achieving the highest level of success in their education and life. This audit deals primarily with the initiative to bring families, agencies, and communities together for the common cause of addressing a child's problems, called the FACT Initiative, and the At-risk Programs created by the Legislature and assigned to the State Office of Education.

We found that there is strong support justifying each of these programs and that the statutes have included the relevant principles found in national research. We also found that state and local agencies are following the basic premise of these statutes. They have designed programs that are community-based and family-oriented as called for in the legislation and are working toward the ultimate goal of the relevant statute. While overall we have found the program to be applied in keeping with legislative intent, we also note some areas that can be improved. These improvements are mostly in the area of legislative intent clarification.

Full Report -FACT Initiative and other At-Risk Programs

11. Summary of Report 96-11: PUBLIC UTILITY REGULATION

The development of partial competition in the telecommunications, electric power and natural gas industries is requiring the state to reevaluate its approach to public utility regulation. The current organizational structure and regulatory practices were designed to support the regulation of monopoly providers in which the focus was on setting utility rates and making sure services were adequate and reliable. The development of competition will bring significant changes to some segments of the utility industries that will require corresponding changes in the way the state regulates those industries. The process of addressing these changes will require the participation of both the Legislature and state regulatory staff.

This report discusses the challenges of regulating industries that are partially competitive and partially monopolistic. Our work included a review of how other states are responding to similar challenges. In many ways, Utah's regulators are making similar changes as other states. However, Utah's favorable conditions of relatively low utility rates and financially healthy providers make changes less urgent here than in some states.

Full Report -Public Utility Regulation