1999 Legislative Audits
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1. Summary of Report 99-01: JUVENILE JUSTICE SYSTEM
In order to reduce juvenile crime, the State of Utah needs to focus on the small portion of youthful offenders who are responsible for most serious youth crime. A small minority of all juvenile offenders are responsible for the majority of felonies committed by juveniles. There is growing evidence that the best way to control this population is to provide them with intervention services while they are still young and are at the early stages of delinquency. Unfortunately, confusion has risen over which agency, the Juvenile Court or the Division of Youth Corrections, should take the lead in serving this population. This confusion has made it difficult for the state to develop effective programs for juveniles at the early stages of delinquency.
This report recommends that the state develop a comprehensive strategy for serious, violent and chronic offenders. The strategy will require that the Legislature first clarify the roles of the Juvenile Court and the Division of Youth Corrections. Specifically, we recommend that the Legislature adopt legislation that clearly states that the Juvenile Court should have responsibility for the administration of justice while the Division of Youth Corrections or some other executive-branch agency assume responsibility for administration of all services, sanctions, and penalties issued by the Juvenile Courts.
2. Summary of Report 99-02: DAVIS MENTAL HEALTH FOLLOW-UP
We conducted a follow-up audit of A Performance Audit of Davis Mental Health Center Non-Client Activities (report #97-07) released in November 1997. The Legislative Audit Subcommittee requested this follow-up audit because of the serious issues raised in the previous report. Our follow-up work was done to assess what progress the Davis Mental Health Center (Davis) has made since we issued our initial report. We are pleased to report that they have made substantial progress in implementing the recommendations over the last year although some issues still need to be completed.
Our November 1997 audit report found a need for major improvements in certain administrative practices of the center. We reported significant concerns with poor center controls and insufficient oversight that allowed the director to abuse his business travel privileges and gain significantly from compensation and perquisites. We also reported on some significant concerns with the operation of a recreational therapy program that was not necessarily in the best interest of Davis clients. Finally, the report showed that the director used funding from a second organization in a manner unacceptable to the funding donors.
Several important changes have occurred at Davis since we released our report. First, in December 1997, the director of the center resigned. His resignation came after the Davis Board of Trustees instituted disciplinary proceedings. Second, the board formed a search committee to recommend a new director and, after a national search, hired a new director. The new director began working in November 1998. Third, most Davis board members, responsible for oversight during the initial audit, have left as their terms expired, and they have appointed new board members to replace them. Finally, the Davis board has been increased from nine to eleven members.
3. Summary of Report 99-03: TIMELINESS OF JUVENILE JUSTICE SYSTEM
Local law enforcement agencies and the juvenile courts need to continue their efforts to reduce the time required to process juvenile delinquency cases. The speedy resolution of juvenile delinquency cases is important because juveniles have a more difficult time associating their delinquent behavior with the consequences if punishment is delayed. In addition, delays in prosecuting juvenile offenders also allows juveniles to commit new crimes. We found that 16% of all juveniles referred to the juvenile court committed additional crimes before their prior offense had been adjudicated. When we compared the time it takes to process each juvenile offender to the time requirements in the Utah Code and to the standards recommended by several professional associations, we found that a substantial number of cases in each court district are not processed in a timely manner. We have presented our findings to officials within the juvenile court and law enforcement communities and they have agreed to address this problem. In fact, many efforts are already underway which should help reduce the time it takes to process juvenile delinquency cases.
Full Report -Timeliness of the Juvenile Justice System
4. Summary of Report 99-04: CENTRAL UTAH WATER CONSERVANCY DISTRICT
Management oversight and administrative controls can be significantly improved within the Central Utah Water Conservancy District. The district is responsible for completing the construction of the multi-billion dollar Central Utah Project whose objective is to reclaim the Utah portion of water from the Colorado River basin. The audit report identifies three areas of improvement. First, the district's financial management can be more consistent. While the district reduced its long-term debt by making advantageous use of the federal government's need for cash, cash management at the district could be revamped. Further, with better financial planning, the district might be able to reduce its tax rate. Second, district policies and procedures lack sufficiency and enforcement. Specifically, lapses in administrative controls occurred which resulted in questionable administrative practices. Third, in addition to these managerial issues, the discontinuation of a proposed irrigation system affords an opportunity to analyze the district's water efforts. In our opinion, a legislative task force should be formed to independently re-assess the former water allocations.
Full Report -Central Utah Water Conservancy District
5. Summary of Report 99-05: BUREAU OF SERVICES REVIEW
This report deals with this child welfare oversight agency's performance of its responsibility to annually report whether the Division of Child and Family Services is adhering to state statutes, and division and legislative policy in conducting child welfare casework. We continue to emphasize that evaluating child welfare cases for procedural compliance should be part of a broader review of system performance and outcomes for children and families. Because measuring for compliance alone provides limited information, we now reiterate the need for a broad review system that directly assesses performance and outcomes.
The results of our review
of BSR's compliance review process are basically consistent with our prior two
audits, although the rate at which we disagreed with BSR scoring is somewhat
higher. We disagreed with the scoring on 12% of the compliance items in our
sample of BSR's 1998 case reviews. However, like our prior audits, most of our
disagreements are not significant in terms of child safety or well-being. Scoring
differences occur for many reasons including errors on the part of BSR readers,
the inherent subjectivity of the case review process, and disagreements over
BSR scoring policy.
Full Report -A Review of the Bureau of Services Review
6. Summary of Report 99-06: HIGHER EDUCATION OPERATIONAL STATISTICS
This audit was initiated to provide data on the number of higher education employees and the amount of work they perform. The Utah System of Higher Education (USHE) Employee Count Report reported 22,700 full-time equivalent (FTE) employees in fall 1998. The 1998 report is a fairly accurate employee count, with improvements over the first employee count in 1997. There are still some inaccuracies, mainly in categorization of employees within the report.
Limited formal workload measurement is done in the USHE. More data are available on faculty workloads than on non-instructional workloads; Utah's professors carry similar workloads to those in other states. There are more non-instructional than instructional staff in the USHE, a pattern similar to staffing elsewhere. However, little information exists in higher education or anywhere else regarding workload measurement for the non-instructional employees.
7. Summary of Report 99-07: CRIMINAL JUSTICE PLANNING
The criminal justice system is one of the most expansive and complex systems in the public policy arena. The challenging task of implementing effective criminal justice policy is complicated by the interplay both of government branches--executive, judicial, and legislative--and government levels--federal, state, and local. The system's challenges cannot be met with quick fixes and simple solutions. Rather, a systemic view--a discussion of how to fix system processes--should drive changes.
The audit report concentrated on four areas within the planning process: (1) Criminal justice data must improve to provide a solid foundation for policy development. (2) The Legislature should consider enhancing the state's ability to evaluate crime and offender data. (3) Utah needs to formalize the data and evaluation into a criminal justice plan in accordance with the Commission on Criminal and Juvenile Justice's (CCJJ's) duty "to provide a comprehensive criminal justice plan annually." and (4) Criminal justice agencies need to provide sound policy input to the Legislature by beginning with quality data which is thoroughly evaluated and then incorporated into a strategic planning process.
8. Summary of Report 99-08: MUNICIPAL & COUNTY TAXATION
This audit was initiated at the request of a legislative task force studying municipal revenues. The task force is concerned that municipal residents are taxed for similar or duplicate services by the counties in which they reside. Perceived taxing inequities characterized as "double taxation" is a cause of conflict between Utah's cities and counties. Both county and municipal governments have the authority to provide services and to tax the same municipal residents.
This taxation/service overlap between two governments, serving nearly the same population, brings complaints that services are inefficiently duplicated or accounted for inaccurately; resulting in a rising tax burden without corresponding service improvements. Conflicts occur when counties and municipalities provide similar services and when counties provide some services countywide and others only to selected areas. This report deals with the following areas: (1) Utah Legislature Addressed Double Taxation Concerns, (2) Improvements in Accounting for Municipal-Type Services Are Needed, and (3) Continual Refinements Needed to Reduce Salt Lake County Inequities.
Full Report -A Performance Audit of Municipal and County Taxation
9. Summary of Report 99-09: ASSET FORFEITURE PROCEDURES
There is little support for allegations that police are abusing their authority to seize and forfeit property. Sufficient oversight is provided from law enforcement agencies, internal controls, county prosecutors and the courts to prevent abuse of individual rights. However, some agencies need to improve the oversight and control of property taken into custody. In addition, many agencies are not using asset forfeiture proceeds according to requirements of the Utah Code. Although this report provides suggestions for how agencies can come into compliance with the law, legislators may consider clarifying rules for the distribution and use of forfeited assets.
Full Report -A Performance Audit of Asset Forfeiture Procedures
10. Summary of Report 99-10: 9-1-1 System
Major changes in the telecommunications environment have created a need to reevaluate the organizational structure and funding of the state's 9-1-1 system to ensure the citizens of the state are being well served by the system. The current decentralized organizational structure and funding mechanism were developed in the 1980s when there was one major telephone company, very few wireless phone companies and basic 9-1-1 telephone service. However, the telecommunications environment has changed dramatically since 9-1-1 service was established. Competition in the telephone industry has allowed many new companies to enter the market and begin offering telephone service and there has been tremendous growth in the number of wireless phones.
The dramatic increase in
wireless use has placed new demands on the 9-1-1 system. A major issue currently
facing the state is the implementation of wireless Enhanced 9-1-1 (E9-1-1),
designed to improve servicing of 9-1-1 calls originating from wireless phones.
Because of the many issues and parties involved, we believe a comprehensive
statewide solution is needed.
Full Report -A Performance Audit of the 9-1-1 System in Utah
11. Summary of Report 99-11: BUREAU OF SERVICES REVIEW
This report deals with this child welfare oversight agency's performance of its responsibility to annually report whether the Division of Child and Family Services is adhering to state statutes, and division and legislative policy in conducting child welfare casework. This report builds on our audit of BSR's 1998 review (Report #99-05). Since BSR did not have the opportunity to implement the recommendations from that audit before case reviews were conducted for its 1999 review of DCFS, we limited the scope of this audit. We update our disagreement rate with BSR for 1999 cases and suggest some strategies to reduce the number of cases BSR reviews.
The recommendations from our prior audit remain valid and BSR officials have informed us that they are implementing them for the 2000 BSR review. We disagreed with the scoring on 9 percent of the compliance items that we analyzed from BSR's 1999 case process review. This is generally consistent with the disagreement rates of our prior audits of 1995 (9%), 1996 (7%), and 1998 (12%). We classified only two of our 44 disagreements (0.4%) as potentially significant in terms of child safety or well-being. This is an improvement from 1.6 percent in 1998. Finally, we believe that BSR should reduce the number of cases it samples. We suggest three strategies that BSR could utilize to reduce its sample: 1) base expected error rate on performance goals rather than historical performance levels; 2) combine sub-groups when possible; and 3) reconsider how CPS sub-groups are included. We found that incorporating all three strategies could reduce BSR's sample size by 52 percent.
Full Report - A Performance Audit of the Bureau of Services Review