2019 Legislative Audits

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1. Report 2019-01: Performance Audit of the Waste Tire Recycling Fund

Summary: This audit examines how the Waste Tire Recycling Fund is being used, whether it is accomplishing its intended purposes, and whether the program is operating in compliance with statute. We found that the fund has successfully fostered a strong state waste tire recycling industry but has not been used to adequately addressed clearing some waste tire piles throughout the state. Of primary concern, some counties cannot afford to properly dispose of waste tires as outlined in statute. A large, current fund balance ($4.6 million) could be used to help resolve some issues as was proposed in the 2018 Legislative General Session or the fee could be reduced. We also found the waste tire recycling program could benefit from improved tracking of waste tires and tire piles and additional outreach to landfills is needed. In addition, we found landfills are accepting and disposing of whole waste tires in a manner inconsistent with statute. Furthermore, the Division of Waste Management and Radiation Control was aware of these practices and should improve their oversight. The audit report makes multiple recommendations for policy changes to address our findings and strengthen compliance.

Full Report - A Performance Audit of the Waste Tire Recycling Fund

 

2. Report 2019-02: Performance Audit of the University Neuropsychiatric Institute and Crisis Services

Summary: The audit of the University Neuropsychiatric Institute’s (UNI’s) included a review of the crisis services, patient assessments, discharge planning, and quality assurance. First, crisis services continues to have significant growth, which contributes to funding concerns. During the last three fiscal years (FY 2016 – FY2018), the deficit for crisis services totaled $1.16 million. By fiscal year 2020, UNI projects a $3.6 million deficit for crisis services. Second, most Medicaid and uninsured patients are assessed appropriately. A consultant reviewed two years of data and found 90 percent of the time, UNI staff assess the patient’s need for treatment correctly. Third, we reviewed one year of hospitalization data that showed discharge planning at UNI is consistent. Lastly, we found that the quality assurance process for the Crisis Line and clinical assessments can be strengthened.

Full Report -A Performance Audit of the University Neuropsychiatric Institute and Crisis Services

 

3. Report 2019-03: Performance Audit of Counties’ Use of Tourism Promotion Funding

Summary: This report found that the eight selected counties were compliant with the requirements of the Transient Room Tax (TRT) code. Counties are spending money only where allowed, and they are spending the required amount on tourism promotion. Two policy questions are presented for the Legislature’s determination: 1) Should counties have more flexibility in how TRT funds can be spent, and 2) Should counties be required to spend tourism promotion dollars outside the state, or should the definition of tourism promotion remain broad? No matter how these policy questions are decided, TRT reporting requirements can be adjusted to make the Utah Office of Tourism the single entity for oversight and make the content more useful to decision makers.

Full Report - A Performance Audit of Counties’ Use of Tourism Promotion Funding

 

4. Report 2019-04: A Performance Audit of Tooele County's Sale of the Utah Motor sports Campus

Summary: This audit examines Tooele County’s efforts to sell the Utah Motorsports Campus and the oversight it provided during the three years the county owned the facility.  Initially, the county agreed to sell the property to Mitime Inc. for $20 million. However, the county mishandled the sale by not following the best practices that public entities normally use when selling significant public property. After the sale to Mitime was successfully challenged in court, Tooele County hired a subsidiary of Mitime to operate the park. Three years later, the county finally sold the property to Mitime for $18.55 million. However, after deducting the millions in operating losses suffered by the park as well as the county’s litigation expenses, the net proceeds from the sale were $7.4 million. We also found the Tooele County Commission did not provide adequate oversight of raceway operations and finances. Specifically, county financial statements understated raceway liabilities, evidence of budgetary oversight was lacking, and assets purchased for the raceway were not properly approved or inventoried.

Full Report - A Performance Audit of Tooele' County's Sale of the Utah Motorsports Campus

 

5. Report 2019-05: A Performance Audit of the Repayment Feasibility of the Lake Powell Pipeline

Summary: This audit found that Washington County Water Conservancy District has the potential to generate sufficient revenue to repay the cost of the Lake Powell Pipeline. However, the ability to generate this revenue growth is dependent on planned rate and fee increases occurring coupled with the realization of estimated population growth projected by the Kem C. Gardner Policy Institute. We also found that pipeline payback requirements are not fully defined in statute. Uncertainties in the act’s repayment requirements could impact the revenues received by the state and the district’s ability to pay. Clarifying these uncertainties in statute would give the Legislature more financial control over large amounts of state funds and facilitate repayment planning.

Full Report - A Performance Audit of the Repayment Feasibility of the Lake Powell Pipeline

 

6. Report 2019-06: A Performance Audit of the University of Utah’s Laboratory Safety Practices

Summary: This audit of the University of Utah’s laboratory safety practices identified inadequate safety practices that were not being corrected. For example, 49 percent of research groups repeated rather than corrected the three major safety deficiencies we tracked. In addition, 50 percent of laboratory personnel requesting a hepatitis B vaccine per OSHA regulations did not receive it. Allowing repeat deficiencies to persist was an issue identified in accidents at other universities’ labs that led to the loss of fingers, an arm, and ultimately a researcher’s death. The University of Utah’s risk management system for lab safety is broken based on the extent of repeat deficiencies observed. Poor management practices for the department of Occupational and Environmental Health and Safety (OEHS) prevented the organization from reporting the extent of safety issues that persisted. In addition, university administrators need to more accurately assess the performance of safety programs and ensure compliance when safety deficiencies are identified. In general, lab personnel need to take greater ownership of lab safety by understanding what their individual responsibilities are.

Full Report - A Performance Audit of the University of Utah's Labratory Safety Practices

 

7. Report 2019-07: A Performance Audit of State and Higher Education Building Costs

Summary: The former chairs of the Infrastructure and General Government (IGG) Appropriations Subcommittee requested an audit of the oversight and control of state building costs with a primary focus on higher education. First, we examined the process by which buildings are proposed, reviewed, and funded. We found that the State Building Board (SBB) and Board of Regents for Higher Education (Regents) should improve their information collection efforts and coordinate together to reduce duplication of effort. Second, we found that the SBB and Regents should revise their building review and scoring methodologies to better assess the need for and size of proposed buildings. To this end, the Regents should adjust their building need assessment to avoid inflating higher education space needs. And finally, some buildings have grown in size after receiving Legislative funding, which may dilute operations and maintenance (O&M) funding.

Full Report - A Performance Audit of State and Higher Education Building Costs

 

8. Report 2019-08: A Performance Audit of Child Welfare During Divorce Proceedings

Summary:We were asked to examine the processes for protecting children whose parents are undergoing a divorce in district court. In particular, we reviewed the adequacy of child protections when allegations of abuse and neglect, visitation, and custody disputes were present. We found that while high-conflict, child-welfare-involved divorce cases are infrequent, statute requires child protections. Our review of cases and discussions with child welfare stakeholders revealed that the existing system has sufficient controls in place to protect children during divorce. Although, we found cases involving conflict over children extend divorce time frames significantly. To address this concern, we recommend the courts study and expand triage (a form of assigning cases to different tracks based on case complexity) to additional judicial districts to enhance case processing efficiencies. We also reviewed court personnel training and found that there is a variation in training requirements based on the child welfare expert. We recommend additional court oversight of special masters, custody evaluators, parenting coordinators, and visitation supervisors given that they receive less oversight than Guardians ad Litem and mediators. In particular, we found special masters lacked clear oversight, guidance and training requirements and recommend that the Judicial Council clarify, in rule, use of special masters in domestic cases. 

Full Report - A Performance Audit of Child Welfare During Divorce Proceedings

 

9. Report 2019-09: A Performance Audit of Same Day Voter Registration Control

Summary: This audit found that because individuals who register and vote on Election Day are required by state law to cast provisional ballots, there is very little risk for fraudulent voting. The statewide voter database also provides controls by updating in real time on Election Day and disallowing multiple votes to be recorded for the same voter. Our examination showed that of the small number of double votes attempted to be cast, none were counted twice, and most were the result of confusion rather than intentional voter fraud.

Full Report - A Performance Audit of Same Day Voter Registration Controls

 

10. Report 2019-10: An In-Depth Budget Review of the Department of Natural Resources

Summary: We were asked to review the budget of the Utah Department of Natural Resources (DNR) as well as a look for areas of improvements within the agency. DNR’s resources come from three main sources: restricted accounts, General Funds, and the federal government. Restricted account funding accounts for 33 percent of the revenue. We found that the Watershed Restoration Initiative (WRI) program oversight needs to be formalized and the program’s performance metrics can be improved.  We also found that DNR’s internal audit function lacks sufficient independence in order to be effective. In addition, DWR could increase some nonresident fees to become even more self-funded and charge nonresidents a fee to help pay for program costs of the AIS program similar to many other western states. Finally, DNR needs to improve its oversight of their assets to ensure they are properly accounted for.

Full Report - An In-Depth Budget Review of the Department of Natural Resources

 

Report ILR2019-A: A Limited Review of Allegations Regarding UDOT Noise Barrier in Summit County

Summary: This limited review of UDOT’s process for approving and installing a noise barrier found compliance with federal regulation, state law, and internal policy; however, UDOT should clarify several provisions in its noise abatement policy to reduce the risk of confusion about noise abatement measures.

 

Report ILR2019-B: A Limited Follow Up of Audit 2016-04 - A Performance Audit of the Department of Financial Institution’s Regulation of the Payday Loan Industry

Summary: In its regulation of the payday lending industry, the Department of Financial Institutions has improved many aspects of its examination process. However, new regulations have not been preventing overuse of pay day loans, and data from the industry still needs to improve. Finally, we believe DFI has the data it needs to conduct a study of chronic users. This letter also contains DFI’s formal response to eight questions we asked during the original audit in 2016.

 

Report ILR2019-C: A Limited Review of RISE Testing Issues

Summary: Failures by Utah’s statewide RISE testing system caused disruptions that negatively impacted schools across the state and raised questions about the accuracy and reliability of the statewide assessment data. The impacts of these disruptions on data reliability and accuracy are still unknown. Moving forward, USBE should use past data on the costs of switching assessment platform vendors to inform future procurements for assessment delivery services.