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Chair's Corner | Shunti Taylor (Georgia)

Picture of Shunti Taylor, chair of the National Legislative Program Evaluation Executive CommitteeHappy 2019! At the start of a new year, I'd like to take a moment to reflect on the highs and lows of the previous year (both personally and professionally). This allows me to fine-tune my expectations—raising them in some cases and lowering them in others. On a personal front, I tend to think I’ll exercise more, eat better, save more—all the typical, mostly unrealistic goals. From a professional standpoint, I tend to take my goals a little more seriously—my livelihood depends on it! Lucky for you, because I’ve been chosen to captain this ship for the next year. 

As Chair of the NLPES Executive Committee for the 2018-19 term, I have the pleasure of working with an amazing group of individuals who make up the Executive Committee, all of whom are dedicated to advancing our profession. I’d like to congratulate Jon Courtney (New Mexico) on being elected as our new vice chair and Kiernan McGorty (North Carolina) on being elected our new secretary. I’d also like to commend our immediate past chair, Linda Triplett, for a successful 2017-18 term and on her recent election to the NCSL Executive Committee. With the help of the officers and members of the Executive Committee, I’m committed to building on the successes of the prior year.

My goals for the 2018-19 term are:

  • Engaging new entrants in the field of performance auditing and program evaluation to help sustain interest in the work we do.
  • Building strong partnerships with the broader program evaluation and performance auditing community (other professional organizations, colleges and universities) as a way to make more resources available to our members.
  • Identifying ways NLPES can encourage diversity in the field to further creativity in our work and ensure a variety of perspectives are reflected in our products.

The Executive Committee is busy at work identifying ways to achieve these goals, as well as continuing the great work begun in the previous year. For example, while continuing their efforts to develop an information-rich and engaging newsletter, the Communications Subcommittee is also exploring ways to involve new staff, through content targeted to newer staff and testimonials displayed on the NLPES website. The Professional Development subcommittee is constantly seeking new webinar content to promote information sharing among member offices. In addition, the subcommittee is working to identify resources available through other organizations to help generate more content for our training library. Our newest subcommittee, Advancement of the Field of Legislative Program Evaluation and Performance Auditing, wants to encourage future Professional Development Seminar (PDS) hosts to work with their flagship universities to identify speakers and help broaden NLPES members’ awareness of other professional organizations that serve program evaluators and auditors.

The Awards subcommittee is gearing up to recognize individuals and member offices for their outstanding work. Based on last year’s participation (with submissions in every category of award), there is much to be applauded. I hope to see the same level of participation this year and look forward to recognizing this year’s recipients at the next PDS.

In reflecting on the successes of last year that we should build on, I would like to congratulate the leadership and staff of the Louisiana Legislative Auditor’s Office on hosting a very successful PDS in New Orleans, La. We had about 160 registered attendees representing 29 states, Washington, D.C. and Canada. And, as I mentioned in my remarks at the awards luncheon in New Orleans, many of us could not attend the PDS without the support of office directors and they should be recognized for their commitment to the development of their staff and support for NLPES. Planning is underway for the next PDS, which will take place in Park City, Utah on Sept.15-18, 2019. Also on the horizon is the Super PDS taking place in Atlanta, Ga. on Oct. 6-9, 2020. The 2020 Super PDS will bring together legislative staff representing six of nine NCSL professional staff associations (NLPES, LINCS, LRL, LSS, NAFLO, RELACS). By the way, it’s not too soon to start thinking about hosting a PDS in your state in 2021 and beyond!

NLPES’s goal is “to advance the professions of legislative program evaluation and performance auditing, to provide members with relevant training opportunities for exchanging ideas and information, and to give recognition for superior performance.” What I’ve outlined above is just a fraction of the work that is occurring on behalf of the membership to achieve this purpose. So, I hope you’ll take advantage of as many of the resources provided to you through both NLPES and NCSL as you can. Whether it’s attending the PDS or joining the free webinars offered throughout the year, contributing to and reading the biannual newsletter, participating in the annual awards program, contacting NCSL policy staff for information requests, or signing up for NCSL’s policy newsletters, there are many ways to be involved and get the most out of your membership. And, it is my hope that your continued engagement will promote interest in running for a seat on the NLPES Executive Committee where you can join us in shaping our organization.

Many thanks to all our member offices for your continued support of NLPES. If you have ideas for how we can better serve you or how we can accomplish our goals, I’m just a phone call or an e-mail away.

Shunti Taylor is the 2018–2019 NLPES Executive Committee chair. She can be reached at taylorsh@audits.ga.gov or (404) 651-8866.

 

 

Fun Fieldwork 

If you have a fieldwork experience your office would like to highlight, please email submissions to emily.johnson@sunset.texas.gov.

Breaking Good | Jon Courtney (New Mexico)

Many people know Albuquerque from the recent television series "Breaking Bad," where anti-hero resident Walter White commits a number of crimes in support of a methamphetamine drug ring. Fiction started to become reality in Albuquerque as from 2010 to 2017 the crime rate rose by 56 percent (with other indicators such as amphetamine-related emergency department visits tripling over the same period). Recognizing the importance of this public safety issue, the New Mexico Legislative Finance Committee (LFC) asked our Program Evaluation Unit to examine the criminal justice system, focusing on potential causes and solutions to the city’s crime increase (not including Hollywood depictions). The project was a big undertaking involving multiple city, county and state agencies in the areas of law enforcement, jurisprudence, incarceration, and behavioral health. Fortunately, our office was a good fit for the project as we have broad statutory authority to examine and evaluate the finances and operation of all departments, agencies, and institutions of New Mexico. Our fieldwork included standard interviews with those working in all aspects of criminal justice system. All of these conversations were interesting and informative, but my ride-along with the Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Office (BCSO) on a hot day in June stands as one of most exciting days of work I have ever experienced.

Image of a crowd in New Mexico

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Photograph showing joint BCSO/APD operation staging area. Officers are receiving instructions from the BCSO sheriff.

You will have to sign a waiver. Our day started at a staging area near downtown Albuquerque where reported crime in 2016 was 585 percent above the national average. BCSO and the Albuquerque Police Department (APD) were performing a joint operation to round up individuals with outstanding warrants. Two other program evaluators and I were there that morning for a ride-along. We signed waivers stating “I fully understand that police work is inherently dangerous and that, in addition, the police officer or officers with whom I am assigned may make decisions adverse to my personal safety.” We also agreed to hold BCSO and APD harmless for “wrongful death, injury, or property damage I may suffer while riding in this vehicle.” After instruction from each department’s respective leader, warrants were assigned to officers, and we started searching.

The mood quickly turned. The day started with little luck, the doors at last known addresses went mostly unanswered that morning and individuals named in the warrants were proving hard to find. Later that morning, my officer and I were in the vicinity of another small team of officers who had located a person with an outstanding warrant. Instead of complying with officers, the suspect decided to speed off in his SUV and the chase was on. The mood quickly turned from tedium to excitement as we responded to the call. The high-speed chase led us through a busy business district eventually ending up in a residential neighborhood downtown. I am not sure how fast we were going as I was watching for cars in intersections and listening to additional details on the police radio. The adrenaline was flowing as we sped past the University of New Mexico back toward the downtown area. The lead car in the chase deployed a GPS tracking device shot from the front bumper of a police cruiser, sticking to the suspect vehicle (just in case the vehicle is lost during the chase). Toward the end of the chase, the lead car in the chase spun out crashing through a fence. Officers boxed in the suspect vehicle soon after, and one more warrant was cleared. 

Image of a GPS tracking device attached to car's bumperA New Mexico sheriff's office vehicle that crashed into a fence

 

 

 

 

 


Photographs showing a GPS tracking device attached to the rear bumper of the suspect's vehicle deployed from a BSCO police cruiser during a high-speed chase (left) and a BCSO vehicle that crashed into a fence during the same high-speed chase (right).

All in a day’s work. The day flew by as we worked to clear more warrants. The warrant roundup operation that day resulted in 48 total arrests and the recovery of four stolen vehicles. It also resulted in some new friendships with the officers that held our lives in their hands during a thrilling 12-hour shift.The fieldwork made it into our report, which we released in July 2018 with a number of recommendations for the criminal justice system. Overall, we found that deteriorating social conditions exacerbated system failures to hold offenders accountable and address root causes of crime. From 2010 to 2017 the city saw increases in concentrated poverty, gun use, and drug use, which were met with fewer offenders being held accountable, and fewer offenders receiving services aimed at addressing root causes. I am happy to say that things are improving in Albuquerque due to the hard work of those across the criminal justice system. In 2018, Albuquerque experienced its first crime decrease in eight years with crime falling 24 percent compared to the previous year. Today I am sitting in my office in Santa Fe preparing for our upcoming legislative session, fondly remembering riding along with those brave first responders, and hoping for another fieldwork experience that lives up to that exciting day in Albuquerque.

The full report is on the LFC’s website here. 

Jon Courtney, Ph.D. is the program evaluation manager for the New Mexico Legislative Finance Committee and the current vice chair of NLPES. He can be reached at jon.courtney@nmlegis.gov

 

 

New Technologies

If you have new technologies your office would like to highlight, please email submissions to emily.johnson@sunset.texas.gov.

Kansas Implements New Audit Products | Andy Brienzo and Rick Riggs (Kansas)

Image of a cursor pointing to "technology"Like many audit offices, the Kansas Legislative Division of Post Audit (LPA) produces a traditional printed audit report at the end of each project. Although this report is emailed to our legislative committee and available online in PDF format, electronic availability has always been a lesser priority. Printed reports have been LPA’s focus, and for many years that’s been Okay.

However, this focus on printed reports has become increasingly problematic as mobile devices have become ubiquitous. The PDF versions of our reports don’t necessarily play nicely with the devices that legislators, auditees and members of the public are using to access them. For example, our readers have to squint at and pinch to zoom these reports to read the tiny font that the PDF produces on a mobile phone. It works, but it’s clunky and annoying, especially compared with the slick web-based content being produced by the private sector.

So, LPA has decided to follow offices like Washington JLARC into the world of electronic reporting. Rather than focus on producing printed audit reports with afterthought electronic versions available via PDF, we’ll create natively HTML audit reports that are optimized for viewing on desktops, laptops, and mobile devices. This means creating a new website, overhauling our writing process to better facilitate the creation of electronic reports, and giving tablets to the members of our legislative committee so they can see and read our new electronic reports as we intend. Our new website will also lay the foundations for additional innovations like video, animation, and interactive data visualization.

However, LPA is populated by a bunch of performance auditors, not graphic designers or web developers. Although we probably could have cobbled together some homegrown solution, we recognized that we generally spend thousands of hours (and dollars) on each audit report, with one primary product to show for it at the end of the day: the report. So, we thought it would be worth it to ask a full-service marketing firm to take care of this transition for us, ensuring our new website and electronic reports are as good as they can possibly be.

Beyond their obviously superior graphic design and web development skills, our marketing firm’s biggest contribution may be helping both LPA and our legislative committee members understand the full range of options available to us. Although our committee members consistently express satisfaction with our audit reports, there are probably both obvious (see above) and not-so-obvious improvements to be made. That is, there are likely to be possibilities for our work products that neither LPA nor our committee members are aware of but are routine for professional graphic designers and web developers. One of our marketing firm’s first steps will be conducting primary research on what Kansas legislators want to see from our new website and electronic reports. They’ll then combine this information with their expertise to create cutting-edge products that provide maximum value to our legislative audience. We expect to roll out these changes later this year and be well into LPA’s electronic reporting era by the beginning of Kansas’ 2020 legislative session.

Our transition to electronic reporting isn’t the only change underway at LPA. In December 2018, LPA issued its first three podcasts. We had discussed for years the possibility of doing some kind of books-on-tape format (yes, we’ve talked about it for that long) so Kansas legislators could listen to our reports during the hours it takes many of them to drive to Topeka. With the necessary technology becoming more affordable and legislators becoming more computer literate, we decided to finally take the plunge.

With an investment of less than $300 for a digital recorder, a good mic, and a pair of headphones, we found we could deliver a 10-minute summary of our audit reports that hit all the main points. We edit each raw recording with free software called Audacity, which makes cutting out verbal flubs no harder than selecting and deleting a line of text. When the recording is finished, the software deadens any background noise, saves the recording as an mp3, and compresses it with no appreciable loss of sound quality. To share the finished product, we simply added new links on the LPA website’s home and search pages next to the existing links for the PDF version of the relevant report.

The biggest issue, however, is coming up with the script. Certain report elements, like charts and tables, don’t generally translate well to spoken form, so simply reading the audit report isn’t an option. Instead, we summarize the content of these elements and move on. We do the same thing for the agency’s response (e.g., “Agency officials generally agreed with our findings…”) and report appendices, and then refer the listener to the written report for the details.

Now that we’ve gotten our feet wet, we’re developing some scripting and production guidance to ensure LPA podcasts are consistent over time. As the 2019 legislative session gets under way, we hope to solicit feedback from our legislative audience that will help us continue to fine-tune our offerings and better meet legislators’ needs.

We’d love to answer questions or exchange ideas with other interested legislative staff on either of these new products. We can be contacted at andy.brienzo@lpa.ks.gov or rick.riggs@lpa.ks.gov

 

 

Report Radar | Chris Latta (Pennsylvania)

Image of a magnifying glass over a documentGood day fellow seekers and welcome to the latest edition of the Report Radar. I, your humble scribe, have searched far and wide to bring to you the efforts of our brothers and sisters in performance evaluation. Ours is a noble calling, as we work to ensure truth, justice, and the American way. So, without further ado…

We begin our journey in the Auditor General’s office of Illinois. The House of Representatives in the Land of Lincoln adopted a resolution directing the Auditor General to conduct a performance audit of the oversight of the Community Integrated Living Arrangements (CILA) program of the state’s Department of Human Services. The performance audit found the department failed to publish accurate survey data; complete timely annual reviews; and accurately account for notices of violation in its database. The audit report contained 26 recommendations for corrective action. A complete copy of the report may be found HERE.

In Maine, the Government Oversight Committee of the legislature directed the Office of Program Evaluation and Government Accountability (OPEGA) to review the circumstances surrounding the response of the Department of Health and Human Services to child abuse and neglect allegations in the cases of two children who died because of abuse in the home. Sadly, the resulting report showed missed opportunities that may have protected the children.

Specifically, OPEGA found the department failed to follow policies and procedures in “fully assessing the appropriateness of the placement” of the children. Further the department did not stay engaged with the child and family to ensure needed services were provided. OPEGA concluded that poor job performance and inadequate supervision were factors.

In the other case, OPEGA observed the risk of child abuse was not, in fact, evident without regularly putting together information held by various parties that interacted with the child over time.  OPEGA noted that in the last two months of the child’s life, greater information sharing might have prompted further action. However, they noted that many individuals from several entities regularly tried to assist the family. The full report may be found HERE.

The fine people in the Office of the Auditor General (OAG) for the Wolverine State, conducted a performance audit on the modernization of Michigan’s legacy IT systems in state government. The audit explained that the National Association of State Chief Information Officers stated, “modernization of legacy IT systems is a significant financial, technical, and programmatic challenge to states’ ability to deliver services to citizens and conduct day-to-day business.” As of May 2017, 16 percent of Michigan’s information systems were considered legacy systems.

The OAG found Michigan’s technology office had not established policies and procedures designed to ensure the state’s modernization plan practices were “defined, repeatable, and consistently implemented across all state agencies.” The concern is that undefined processes increase the likelihood upgrades will be performed inconsistently and lead to varying results. The performance audit also noted the state’s IT office and Budget Office did not make sure the methods to choose projects for upgrade contained quality information to ensure the selection of projects with the greatest business value. The complete report may be found HERE.

The Program Evaluation Division (PED) of the North Carolina General Assembly completed an interesting report entitled, “Inadequate Data Collection and Cost Recovery Practices Limit Economy of Healthcare for Safekeepers.” Safekeepers is the term of art used in North Carolina for county inmates who are referred by county sheriffs to be housed temporarily in the state prison system. The report was released in October of 2018.

In it, PED found the North Carolina Department of Public Safety does not “systematically collect, analyze, or report data on usage of healthcare services by Safekeepers.” The result is the inability of the Department to determine if the inmates medical needs exceed the capabilities of county jail facilities. The report recommends the General Assembly direct the Department of Public Services, Division of Health Services to expand the data elements it collects on the Safekeeper population. Suggested elements include the date a Safekeeping order is received; the reason an order was granted; the date a Safekeeper is transferred to state custody; health services provided with corresponding charges billed; and the date the Department of Public Services staff notifies the county it should reassume custody. The final report may be found HERE.

Finally, in the state of Washington, the Joint Legislative Audit and Review Committee (JLARC) was directed to evaluate compliance with statutory requirements under that state’s Homeless Housing and Assistance Act for measuring performance and data reporting. JLARC was also directed to assess the adequacy of the Office of Homeless Youth’s performance-based contracting.

JLARC had good news to report. Specifically, local governments comply with key planning and reporting requirements and provide comprehensive data about homelessness. The Commerce Department, the agency with responsibility for the program in question, was shown to regularly update the statewide strategic homeless plan. That plan also includes system-wide performance measures. JLARC also found all local governments have plans in place to address homelessness.

The Committee recommended the Commerce Department explain how its actions measurably contribute to the state’s goal of ending homelessness. The report notes although the current strategic plan includes goals, actions, and performance measures, it is unclear how those actions advance the state’s goal to end homelessness. The complete report may be found HERE.

There you have it —our highlighted reports for the winter of 2019. If you have any suggestions for a report you think merits inclusion in the next edition of the Report Radar, please feel free to send it my way. 

Chris Latta is a project manager with Pennsylvania’s Legislative Budget and Finance Committee. He can be reached at clatta@palbfc.us. 

 

 

Report Spotlight 

Image of a spotlightVirginia's Unique Approach to Evaluating Economic Development Incentives Collectively | Ellen Miller (Virginia)

Over the past five to 10 years, states have increasingly begun to evaluate their economic development incentive programs—such as income tax credits, sales tax exemptions, and grants—used to encourage businesses to locate or expand in their state. Many state evaluations focus on individual incentives, while others examine a group of incentives, such as tax credits. 

A new report, Economic Development Incentives: 2018, from Virginia’s JLARC provides policymakers with information about Virginia’s spending on incentives, collectively and by each incentive program, over the past eight years. For example, it states that Virginia spent $1.8 billion on 78 economic development incentives during the eight-year period from FY10 to FY17. The majority (about 60 percent) of the state’s incentive spending has been on tax incentives, with nearly all the remainder for grants. Sales and use tax exemptions alone account for nearly half of all spending on incentives (Figure 1).

Picture of a graph showing Virginia spending on various incentivesFIGURE 1: Majority of spending on incentives from FY10-FY17 was for tax incentives.

 

 

 

 

Spending on incentives has increased significantly since FY 2010 but has been fairly consistent since FY 2014 (Figure 2).

Image of line graph showing fairly consistent spending on Virginia incentives FIGURE 2: Spending on incentives has been fairly consistent since FY14.

 

 

 

 

This report also provides the first-ever estimates of the total economic benefits of all economic development incentives in Virginia, collectively and by each major type of incentive. The economic benefits—such as increases in employment, gross domestic product, and personal income—vary widely by type of economic development incentive program. A key finding of the report is that grant programs have substantially larger economic benefits than tax incentives (per $1 million spent), in part because they tend to target high-return projects, while tax incentives are often ongoing and less targeted to specific types of projects (Figure 3). Despite the higher economic benefits of grants, the state spends less on grants than on tax incentives.

Table showing grants have higher economic benefit that tax incentives in VirginiaFIGURE 3: Grants have substantially higher economic benefits than tax incentives.
Note: Return in revenue includes state revenue only.

 

 

 

JLARC staff will produce a report on total economic development spending annually, and update the economic benefit results every two years. The economic impact analysis was conducted by economists at the University of Virginia’s Weldon Cooper Center for Public Service, using REMI PI+ (Policy Insight Plus) software.

The full report can be found here. Appendix H provides a detailed explanation of the analytical approach.

Ellen Miler is a chief economic development and quantitative analyst with Virginia's JLARC. She can be reached at kagnelli@jlarc.virginia.gov.

 

 

NEWS & SNIPPETS

What's a New Director to Do? | Danielle Fox (Maine)

The New Beth. This summer, a non-partisan committee policy analyst was appointed as the second-only director of Maine’s Office of Program Evaluation and Government Accountability. When people encounter her in the halls of the State House campus they say, “Hey, you’re the new Beth, congratulations!”

I am the new Beth. It is a moniker I will accept with honor as it recognizes the highly-respected, immensely capable Beth Ashcroft, who retired from the position this past year. It will take some time for me to fill the shoes that she wore to blaze a trail over the last 13 years establishing OPEGA and gathering a remarkable team, who provide to the Legislature the valuable service of program evaluation and performance auditing.

My service to the Legislature began 20 years ago, directly staffing a joint standing committee, providing policy analysis, report-writing and legislative drafting. So, leading an office of professionals who clearly know more about the work of program evaluation than I do presents the challenge of how best to support them. They don’t need new direction. They don’t require a change in work practices. Well-developed office processes, and highly-trained staff have provided me a road-map that needs no alternate route.

What’s a new director to do?

Transition and lasting impressions. At the beginning of the transition into this position, I gained a new perspective about what it takes to provide the service of program evaluation to the Legislature. It’s a perspective that I didn’t have as a policy analyst, simply reading a final OPEGA report. I took for granted what one doesn’t see—the development of work plans and methodologies, coding of survey responses, plugging-in of inputs, analysis of data, assessment of risks, evaluation of controls and the meticulous completion of first and second level reviews. If I, as a fellow-staffer in the legislative trenches just across the hall, took this impressive work-engine for granted, then there are certainly others who did as well.

As this transition goes on and I work on editing reports and assisting with the drafting of new ones, it is hard to completely shed my old role of policy analyst and drafter. I think to myself, “Imagine, if in the development of new programs, legislators considered including reporting requirements and the collection of data to facilitate future evaluation!” I laugh out loud at the obviousness of that. Of course, it’s not the first time such a thought entered my head, but it did make me wonder how conspicuous it is as a consideration in the work of policy development on a day-to-day basis.

An answer to the questiona short “to-do” list. The majority of the role and responsibilities of the director have been clearly established. The road map exists and it is clear. This early in my tenure, there’s little to bring that’s new, except to do something with those impressions made upon me as someone new to program evaluation during my transition into role as director.

I can tell you what this new director wants to do.

First, I want to make time to extoll loudly to legislators, and other consumers of OPEGA’s reports, the value and integrity of the work that was done in the weeks and months leading up to the report being published. I will make known the integrity that is borne out of meticulous completion of first and second level review and the benefits of risk assessments. This is not only to market the credibility of the work, but to be the champion of those who are analyzing the data, plugging inputs into REMI, and coding survey responses in the basement office with too few windows.

Second, I hope to highlight the value of program evaluation reports in the development of new programs enacted through legislation. Yes, these reports facilitate the constitutional function of legislative oversight and serve as a tool for the executive branch to improve the administration of evaluated programs. Beyond that though, program evaluation reports can complement the establishment of new legislative programs by ensuring that they include requirements for access to data, establishments of baselines and other elements that will facilitate assessment of the program’s success in the future. My hope is to enhance the relevance of program evaluation reports beyond the considerations made around the horseshoe of our Government Oversight Committee.

That’s a good to-do list for now.

When I’m no longer new. While it may take a years before I’m no longer referred to as the “new Beth” (which is just fine by me), sometime soon my transition period will end. What I hope doesn’t end is the impact of those first impressions as I began this transition. Based on those impressions, I will work to highlight the value that program evaluation reports provide in the development of new legislative programs and to be a champion of the staff I’m fortunate enough to lead by enhancing awareness of the work they do so well. 

That’s what this new director will do.

Danielle Fox is the director of Main’s Office of Program Evaluation and Government Accountability. She can be reached at Danielle.Fox@legislature.maine.gov

 

 

Stop the Presses! Performance Reports in the News | Joshua Hooper (California)

Image of a newspaper boy holding paper with a headline saying "Extra"Happy New Year!

2019 is going to be a great year, but first, take a look back at some of the media coverage our offices received from the end of June through December 2018. The weather is cold, but these articles are hot off the presses!

            __________________________________

ARIZONA: Office of the Auditor General
Arizona uncovers fraudulent school choice spending

ARKANSAS: Division of Legislative Audit
Auditor flags Arkansas sheriff's expenditures; boat deal, payment of family cellphone bills questioned 
Arkansas unclaimed property fund is victim of fraud claims

CALIFORNIA: State Auditor 
Audit: California paid billions in questionable claims for Medi-Cal 
‘Lives could have been saved’: Audit slams response to hepatitis outbreak 
State audit blames bullet train mismanagement for delays and price hikes 
Audit: California Agency Failing to Oversee Housing Funds

COLORADO: Office of the State Auditor 
Colorado’s care of the intellectually and developmentally disabled is flawed, state audit finds 
A state audit raises concerns about the lottery’s lack of attention toward frequent high-dollar winners. 
State auditor blasts Colorado’s management of $445 million Regional Tourism Act program

CONNECTICUT: Performance Audit Unit 
Auditors Raise Questions About Technical High Schools' Maintenance, Accounting

DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA: Office of the D.C. Auditor 
Council castigates DCRA housing enforcement as inadequate amid public complaints that ‘continue unabated’

FLORIDA: Office of Program Policy Analysis & Government Accountability 
Florida watchdog proposes new ways to grow lottery sales, boost education funding

HAWAII: Office of the Auditor 
Health Department failed to complete inspections of Hawaii’s care homes, scathing audit says

ILLINOIS: Office of the Auditor General 
Audit: 'Confusion' in legislative watchdog's office led to failures 
Audit rips Illinois' oversight of group homes for adults with disabilities

IOWA: Legislative Services Division 
Iowa GDP growth outpaces nation                                 

KANSAS: Legislative Division of Post Audit 
Staff allege violence, sex abuse at Kansas' juvenile prison 
Kansas audit points to breakdowns in state oversight of pet animal facilities

LOUISIANA: Legislative Auditor 
Auditor uncovers more Medicaid mismanagement 
Audit shows $98,000 in theft from Office of Motor Vehicles 
Audit suggests reducing Louisiana boards and commissions 
Legislative Auditor report finds several issues in England Airpark procedures

MAINE: Office of Program Evaluation and Government Accountability 
Watchdog finds no proof that LePage punished sawmill owners who criticized him 

MARYLAND: Office of Legislative Audits 
Latest state audit finds Baltimore school system didn't fix problems from 2012 audit 
Audit raises questions of Maryland Transit Administration procedures 

MASSACHUSETTS: Senate Post Audit and Oversight Committee 
Senate committee: Mount Ida probe reveals 'gaps in oversight'    

MICHIGAN: Office of the Auditor General 
Michigan Child Protective Services cited for multiple failures by auditors 
Audit says state shouldn't have paid Flint water contractor $33K for travel 
State auditor: Snyder veto could harm scrutiny of government 
Auditors, Department of Corrections spar over prison closure decision-making

MINNESOTA: Office of the Legislative Auditor 
Audit assesses Minnesota medical assistance oversight: State has room to improve, report says 
Legislative auditor finds MNLARS reporting accurate, but offers recommendations for improvement

MISSISSIPPI: Legislative PEER Committee 
PEER Report highlights parental satisfaction, oversight needs for ESA program 
Majority of inmates in Mississippi waiting for their day in court — many for more than 90 days 
Legislative Report Evaluates Local Taxes in Mississippi

NEBRASKA: Legislative Audit Office 
Audit: Two tax credits aren't working as intended     

NEVADA: Legislative Counsel Bureau Audit Division 
Nevada overpaid $2.1M to home providers for mentally ill, audit finds

NEW MEXICO: Legislative Finance Committee 
Missing data undermines prison financial report 
Charter school gets money for non-students

NORTH CAROLINA: Program Evaluation Division 
Lawmakers Move to Reign in Inmate Drug Costs

OKLAHOMA: Office of State Auditor and Inspector 
Concerns raised following Oklahoma Department of Veteran Affairs audit

OREGON: Audits Division, Secretary of State 
Audit: Oregon’s Program That Monitors Controlled Drugs Is Ineffective, Underused 
Audit finds security improved at Oregon's data center, but it still needs work 
Secretary of state audit questions energy loan payments

RHODE ISLAND: Auditor General 
Key Twin River Payments to RI Are Falling

SOUTH CAROLINA: Legislative Audit Council 
Mega Millions results: How much does lottery contribute to education in South Carolina?

TENNESSEE: Administration and Performance Audit Division of State Audit 
Auditors cite TN environmental agency’s data management issues 
Comptroller: Tennessee's Private Probation Services Council did not do its job adequately

TEXAS: State Auditor’s Office 
Audit questions how DPS verifies eligibility when issuing Texas driver's licenses 
State audit finds billion-dollar errors in Texas health agency's contracting process

TEXAS: Sunset Advisory Commission 
Audit Says State Windstorm Insurance Program is Failing… Again 
Sunset commission gives a low appraisal to Texas’ real estate board

UTAH: Office of the Legislative Auditor General 
Dixie Administrators Cleared Of Fault 
Audit says it’s impossible to gauge the success of Utah’s homelessness programs because of bad or useless data

VIRGINIA: Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission 
'Devastating report' highlights Virginia's poor oversight of local foster care programs

WEST VIRGINIA: Post Audit Division 
Audit: W.Va. agency has blown off managing federal dollars 
Full report details more issues at West Virginia homeland security agency 
New report examines Supreme Court’s spend-down, renovations, policies

WISCONSIN: Legislative Audit Bureau   
Special needs vouchers cost Wisconsin public schools $5.6 million in first two years 
Audit: Wisconsin Could Pay For Foxconn Work Done Outside State

Share your coverage with us!  If you would like us to highlight media attention about your reports in our next newsletter, send the hyperlinks to emily.johnson@sunset.texas.gov.

 

 

Check It Out: Websites, Professional Development and Other Resources

Image of the words "Check It Out!"Coming Soon to the NLPES Home pageKeep an eye on the NLPES home page as very soon you will see the appearance of the Report Library to assist you in finding recent reports from other states. The Report Library lists the titles of recent reports by subject area that may be of interest in your work. We will be testing it with reports released in 2018 by the agencies represented on the NLPES Executive Committee. If your response to using the Report Library is positive, we will expand it to include all offices and all reports released in the last five years.

Ready for your close-up? Continue to check the NLPES home page for the new photo ribbons from the New Orleans PDS. Thank you to all who participated.

Image of an email buttonNLPES ListservThe NLPES listserv is an email discussion group for NLPES members. By sending a message to nlpes-l@lists.ncsl.org, you can reach all listserv subscribers simultaneously. Listserv members can query other states about evaluation work similar to their own projects, receive announcements about performance evaluation reports and job opportunities from other states, and are notified when the latest edition of this newsletter is available!  To join the listserv, send an email to Brenda Erickson, NCSL liaison to NLPES, with the subject “SUBSCRIBE to NLPES Listserv.” Include your name, job title, audit agency/organization name, mailing address (including city, state, zip code), phone number and email address. A “Welcome” message will be sent to you once you are successfully added to the listserv. See the listserv link on the NLPES website for additional information on how to post messages and “netiquette” niceties, like not hitting “Reply All” when answering a query posted to the listserv.  

Are you receiving our listserv emails? Some states’ systems block NLPES listserv emails. If you think you are not receiving our emails, please check your state’s security system and spam filters, and/or contact Brenda Erickson.

Legislative careers websiteKnow someone thinking about pursuing a career with a state legislature? Point them to the opportunities posted on  NCSL’s legislative careers website. Job seekers can explore the types of work legislative staffers perform, including performance evaluation, budgeting, fiscal analysis, legal and policy research and opinions, bill drafting, public relations, librarians, building security, and information technology support. Opportunities are posted by states offering positions under Legislative Jobs. Attracting young people to work as legislative staff will be increasingly important in the coming years. And even though baby boomers make up about a third of the national workforce, nearly half of legislative staff responding to a survey were 50 years old or older. Replacing those staffers will present challenges. Check out the welcome video, “A Day at the Capitol,” and learn more about the opportunities and rewards of working for state legislatures. Watch the videos under Career Paths to hear from staffers in different states describing their jobs and the satisfaction they gain from a public service career.

Image of a stack of booksNLPES' Professional Development ResourcesVisit our NLPES online training library for a variety of refresher and training materials! There are nearly two dozen resources on planning and scoping, fieldwork, writing and publication, and management. Most are PowerPoint slides; some are narrated; a few are webinars or podcasts. Check them out.

Image of Ask GAO Live documentAsk GAO LiveAskGAOLive is a 30-minute interface where GAO staff chat about a specific report and research, and answer questions that are emailed or tweeted in. Sessions are recorded and archived on the website. You can also “follow” GAOLive to receive advance notice of chat sessions. Topics include veterans and higher education, prescription drug shortages, prison overcrowding, state and local fiscal outlook, and government contracting.

Image of the underside of a capitol's domeEnsuring the Public TrustWhat’s the most common internal performance measure for evaluation shops? How many offices tweet? What percentage of staff has fewer than 10 years of experience? How can you contact a sister office in another state? Ensuring the Public Trust, summarizes information about legislative offices conducting program evaluations, policy analyses, and performance audits across the country.

 

 

The Working Paper

The Working Paper is published two times a year by the National Legislative Program Evaluation Society, a staff section of the National Conference of State Legislatures. NLPES serves the professionals of state legislative agencies engaged in government program evaluation. The purposes of NLPES are to promote the art and science of legislative program evaluation; to enhance professionalism and training in legislative program evaluation; and to promote the exchange of ideas and information about legislative program evaluation.

The Working Paper is produced by the NLPES Communications Subcommittee.
Patricia Berger, 2017-2018 chair (Pennsylvania)
Emily Johnson, newsletter editor (Texas)

NCSL Liaison to NLPES
Brenda Erickson, 303-856-1391
brenda.erickson@ncsl.org
NCSL Denver Office, 303-364-7700