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Picture of Wayne Kidd, 2014-15 NLPES Chair

Chair's Corner | Wayne Kidd (Utah)

First things first: I would like to congratulate all the 2015 NLPES award winners. What an impressive group! The NLPES awards are an opportunity to recognize the accomplishments and trailblazers of our member offices. Who wouldn’t call Max Arinder a trailblazer? The awards will be presented at Professional Development Seminar (PDS) this fall in Denver.

Speaking of the PDS, our staff section’s most important event of the year will be held in Denver Oct. 11-14. Our good friends in the Colorado Office of the State Auditor have been working hard and planning for months to create a fantastic PDS. I would specially like to thank Greg Fugate and Vickie Heller. At the PDS, we will have the opportunity to share our experiences and the challenges that we deal with in our profession. The program will cover a wide range of topics. I’m looking forward to the informative poster session to learn about reports that were recognized with Certificates of Impact this year. Take this opportunity to attend the PDS and engage in the discussions and network with colleagues from other legislative audit and evaluation offices.

I have a few thank you’s to extend. I would like to thank Katrin Osterhaus and Linda Triplett for putting together the ethics webinar that was broadcast in July. Ethical conduct embraces the core values of our profession. I would like to thank the NLPES members who participated in the Legislative Summit in Seattle. It was a great experience. NLPES co-sponsored or sponsored seven sessions at the Summit.  I would also like to thank Brenda Erickson, our staff section liaison. She works hard, often behind the scenes, for our staff section, and helps to ensure that everything goes as planned.

It has been my privilege to work with Nathalie Molliet-Ribet from Virginia’s Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission on the Executive Committee. Nathalie will take over as chair of NLPES Executive Committee at the PDS in Denver. I look forward to Nathalie’s leadership and vision for NLPES in a constantly changing legislative environment.

It has been a pleasure to serve as chair of NLPES this year, and to work with an incredible Executive Committee. I also want to thank all the NLPES membership for their hard work and commitment to this valuable profession. I have learned so much from you! As I have said many times, I am very proud to be a part of NLPES, and it is because of you. I look forward to seeing you at the PDS in Denver!

Wayne Kidd is the 2014–2015 NLPES Executive Committee chair. He can be reached at wkidd@le.utah.gov.

Image of magnifying glass over paper.Report Radar—Roundup of Evaluations from Across the Country | Angus Maciver (Montana)

Greetings auditors and evaluators of the world!  Welcome to another blockbuster edition of Report Radar, the authoritative source for all things relating to legislative audit and evaluation. We have been trawling the waters of our member offices for the past few months in search of a prize catch, and you are not going to be disappointed. Coming up are various and exciting reports addressing oil and gas development, managing state workforces, contracting and procurement, university research, and public land use and the environment.

Oil and gas development. The last decade has seen big changes in the nation’s oil and gas industries that have a lot of implications for government regulators. We highlight two reports from member offices addressing different aspects of the regulation of this industry sector. First, from Louisiana, we have a very interesting report on the effects of a suspension of severance taxes on oil and gas wells using horizontal drilling. Horizontal drilling is a common feature of the “fracking” methods used by oil and gas drillers to access unconventional reserves, and the Louisiana report estimates the state lost more than $1 billion in revenues over a five-year period as a result of suspending severance taxes for these kinds of wells. We also encourage you to read a report released in July from the Michigan Office of the Auditor General, which addresses the state’s ability to identify and verify rent and royalty revenue from oil and gas production, a common issue that more states are grappling with as production expands. 

Managing state workforces. State government workforces may have shrunk in recent years, but personnel/HR administration for state employees remains a focus for legislatures. We bring to your attention four reports from members offices addressing different issues relating to managing state employees. First is a March report from the Idaho Office of Performance Evaluations, which looks at the application of the state’s holiday leave policy and addresses inconsistencies in how agencies managed leave for employees. Next is a May report from the Texas State Auditor’s Office addressing the use of incentive compensation at selected state agencies and may be of interest if you have agencies using different forms of incentive or bonus payment compensation for employees. The West Virginia Performance Evaluation and Research Division released a report in June reviewing the state’s Division of Personnel, which discussed separation rates, civil service protections, use of predictive analytics in hiring decisions, and performance evaluation systems. Last, but not least, we have an August report from our friends in the North Carolina Program Evaluation Division looking at weaknesses in the state’s process for managing supplemental employee insurance provision and recommending centralization of these functions.

Contracting and procurement issues. Two reports from member offices look at similar issues in this area. The first is from our people in New Mexico, who released a report in March on the State Purchasing Division. Of particular interest in this report is review of the status of efforts to automate the state’s procurement operations. In June, the Louisiana Legislative Auditor released a report addressing contracting by state agencies, which discussed mechanisms in place to approve and monitor contracts worth a total of $21 billion. Contracting and procurement issues are common for our office to address when evaluating individual programs or agencies, but both these reports do a good job elevating the discussion to the next level and examining the big picture issues surrounding management of contracts by state governments.

University research. Management of research activities and funding at state universities has been a productive area of inquiry for many of our member offices over the years. Two recent reports from Hawaii and Wisconsin are definitely worth looking at if you are contemplating work in this area. The Hawaii report was released in June and addresses the work of the Research Corporation of the University of Hawaii, which exists to support research efforts and commercialization of inventions and discoveries. The Wisconsin report was released in August and focuses on how two of the state’s universities are managing multimillion dollar endowments used to fund public health programs, and medical research and education.

Public land use and the environment. If you live west of the Mississippi River (or even if you don’t), issues relating to land use, public lands, and resources and wildlife habitat are likely already on your radar. We highlight four reports from three member offices addressing these issues. First is a May report from Utah on projections of the state’s water needs. Many Western states are dealing with multiyear droughts and water use is becoming an increasingly urgent issue. The Utah report addresses needed improvements in the state’s collection of water use data. We also have a pair of reports issued in July by Washington, the first of which looks at the state’s acquisition of land for recreation and habitat purposes and recommends changes in how these land purchases are coordinated, analyzed, and reported. The second Washington report involves an interesting study of the relationship between state/federal land ownership and economic trends in counties. If you live in a state where there is a high proportion of state and federally owned land, then this report and the methodology employed is going to be very valuable. Finally, we have a report released in May by our fine people in Montana looking at a state program to mitigate the effects of wildlife damage on private lands. This report may be of interest if your state has a program compensating landowners for damage caused by free-roaming herds of elk, deer, or other hungry ungulates.

That wraps it up for this edition of Report Radar. Keep up the good work everybody and see you toward the end of the year for another action-packed roundup of the latest and greatest in legislative audit and evaluation reporting.

Angus Maciver is the deputy legislative auditor for the Montana Legislative Audit Division. He can be reached at amaciver@mt.gov

Picture of Oregon State Capitol

State Profile—Oregon Secretary of State, Audits Division | Ian Green (Oregon)

Established by Oregon’s Constitution as the auditor of public accounts, the Audits Division of the secretary of state is the only independent auditing organization in Oregon with authority to review agency programs in all three branches of state government and other organizations that receive state money.

The division ensures public funds are properly accounted for, spent in accordance with legal requirements, and used to the state’s best advantage. Oregon’s first auditor’s duties, as defined in the Territorial Statutes, were “to lessen the public expenses, use public money to best advantage, promote frugality in public office, and generally, for better management.” 

The division conducts its work according to the U.S. Government Accountability Office’s professional standards, and all its audits are available on the secretary of state’s website. Gary Blackmer leads the division and has served as audits director since 2009.

Topic selection: We select performance audit topics each year based upon observations, risks, public interest and requests from the Legislative Assembly. Our scoping phase identifies potential audit findings that have a direct impact on the mission of the agency, allowing us to produce a report that identifies management strategies to improve performance.

Outreach and training: We recently created a blog to get the word out on our audit work and connect with more people. We also built a LinkedIn page to help with recruiting efforts. To accelerate new hires’ learning, we developed hands-on and classroom training led by staff and management. We offer comprehensive training to new staff and encourage participation in our mentoring program.

Staff: With 72 staff, we have an array of talent. Our auditors conduct financial, performance and information technology audits. We conduct the annual audit of Oregon’s financial statement and single audits. We also investigate allegations received on our Government Waste Hotline and monitor the financial audits of Oregon municipalities performed by CPA firms. We recruit accounting majors for our financial auditors, and applicants with experience in any of the fields related to state services, as well as journalists, for our performance auditors. We recently received approval to hire two more information technology auditors.

Our audits cover a wide range of topics. So far in 2015 we have issued reports on Community College Completion, the State Financial Condition, Oregon Challenges (An Audits Overview), Statewide Audit Summary,  Financial Condition: Fish and Wildlife, Education Capstone, IT Project Management, and PERS Pension ‘Spiking’.

Oregon’s natural beauty: Oregon is abundant with parks, rivers, lakes and recreational activities, including hiking, fishing, biking, boating, equestrian trails and organized children’s sports and activities. Our mountains offer world class skiing and our valleys produce wonderful crops, including the distinctive pinot noir grape. To the west is the Pacific Ocean and many beautiful public beaches. To the east is the high desert, famous for thundereggs, Oregon’s state rock. Salmon and steelhead abound in our rivers. To our south is the wild Rogue River. To the north is the mighty Columbia River.

Oregon’s population is about 4 million, with an economy built on lumber and wood products, agricultural production, tourism, food processing, paper products, machinery, scientific instruments and technology. Portland is the largest city, with about 560,000 people in a metropolitan area of about 2 million. Salem, our capital, is in the heart of the Willamette Valley about 40 minutes south of Portland. Oregon is a wonderful place to live and we work to keep it that way!

Ian Green is a senior auditor with the Oregon secretary of state. He can be reached at ian.m.green@state.or.us.

Picture of Max Arinder

Staff Spotlight: Transitions-Reflections on 40 Years of Performance Auditing | Max K. Arinder (Mississippi PEER, retired)

Performance auditing and evaluation goes at least as far back as the 19th century, but the early 1970s marks its transitional surge. It was then that many legislatures realized they were not adequately prepared to balance the growing power of the executive branch in important public policy debates. Legislators’ response was to establish many of the legislative audit and evaluation shops that now exist. Such shops provide legislators and the public with objective assessments of state government operations, helping inform the deliberative process and educate voters.

The role of legislative audit and evaluation shops was not to make policy, but to help define debates by using the tools and techniques of the emerging profession. Their general mandate was straightforward: Take the diverse concerns of legislators and the public, translate them into clear research questions, collect relevant information, apply rigorous analysis, and—voila!—arrive at conclusions and recommendations that illuminate a subject without generating undue political heat.

The last bit in particular is a daunting tightrope, but one that audit and evaluation shops have learned to walk by clinging to an unflinching commitment to rigorous, data driven processes, clear writing and communication, and a constant but never lightly invoked will to “speak truth to power” when necessary.

But this abiding commitment to the core values of objectivity and precision does not guarantee a static work environment where firm lines are drawn around what is and is not fodder for our efforts. Performance auditors and evaluators are now, and always have been, called upon to adjust both our methods and our products to meet the needs of an evolving political environment, while staying true to our core values.

For instance, even a cursory review of any state’s recent political landscape will find it marked by “new beginnings” based on promising ideas for achieving important goals for the state. Consequently, evaluators often find themselves reassessing resources and tools, clarifying questions that arise from innovative ideas, and attempting to discern how to best supply legislators with sound information upon which to base decisions. Upon closer inspection, some “new beginnings” are not so new. But even “retread” programs present challenges that force us to find new ways of thinking about accountability and outcomes, often requiring new tools and approaches to meet a legislature’s reinvigorated oversight goals.

This is currently the case in Mississippi. After two years in his seat, the House Appropriations chair asked PEER how the state could reinvigorate its Performance-Based Budgeting Law of 1994. The chair liked the analysis of critical issues and options we provided, and got other legislators on board. As a result, PEER was given additional resources to establish a Performance Accountability Office designed to assist the Legislative Budget Office with reinvigorating Mississippi’s performance-based budgeting process and provide staff support for implementing the Pew-MacArthur Results First Initiative in key state agencies. This transition was unexpected, but PEER is excited to be part this rare opportunity to participate in foundational changes that can transcend political cycles through instituting a longitudinal approach to evidence-based programming, data collection and analysis.

We know that political philosophies will continue to ebb and flow. But regardless of the philosophy du jour, as a profession, evaluators must be continually open to change and transition while remaining true to our role and purpose within the legislative institution. While we should keep our eye on the horizon, our commitment to objective analysis is what will allow us to survive transitions and prosper as we continue to serve the democratic process. All political camps respect objective, reliable information, untainted by partisan bias. Such is our strength.

With more than 40 years of professional experience, legislative evaluators and auditors form a significant part of legislatures’ institutional knowledge and memory. We are poised to provide a variety of perspectives on our states’ program and service structures. We are not in the business of holding the legislative institution back or opposing change. Rather, our collective memory and quality analyses help point the way to constructive changes demanded by our fast-moving world. 

As for me, I have reached that bittersweet time when it is best to take my place on the sidelines of this great effort. However, it is not without a bit of envy that I think of the rich opportunities that await those of you who will carry this effort forward. Godspeed!

Max Arinder is the former executive director of the Mississippi Joint Legislative Committee on Performance Evaluation and Expenditure Review.

The words "Blast from the Past"

Blast from the Past—Getting Started on Designing Organization, Operations and Management Studies | Virginia Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission

Sometimes legislators ask us to “take a look at” the organization, operations and management of an agency without saying more specifically what should be examined. Consequently, an audit team is left to identify key issues worth examining. In the absence of further guidance, the range of possible issues can be daunting. 

To help narrow the issues, JLARC compiled a list of 10 areas to consider when faced with a vague request for an organization, operations and management study or audit.

  • Mission and planning: This area often entails comparing “what is” to “what should be.” “What is” are agency activities and performance. “What should be” are agency mandates, mission statements, plans, and other statements of intent.
  • Relationships with outside entities: Sometimes an agency must rely on either public or private entities to get its job done. Other public entities include federal, local, or other state agencies. This area can also include the option of privatizing or contracting out services or functions.
  • Organization and structure. Does the agency need to reorganize? Organizational structure components include division of work (including job specialization), departmentalization of function, chain of command, span of control, and line and staff delineations.
  • Authority and responsibility:  What is the source of the agency’s authority, and is it sufficient for the agency to meet its responsibilities? Are there other external or internal obstacles that are or could prevent the agency from effectively carrying out its responsibilities?
  • Staffing and personnel practices: A common question is: Are staffing levels appropriate, given the agency’s workload? Quantitative approaches for addressing this question can range from simple staff/workload ratios to more sophisticated data envelopment and regression analyses. Turnover, recruitment, compensation levels, training and morale can also be included in this area.
  • Communication: What are the agency’s channels of communication, both vertical and lateral? How effective are these channels in providing needed information and coordination of agency activities?
  • Financial management and funding: Are the necessary financial controls in place? Does the agency have sufficient funding to fully implement its mission? Is integrity of separate funds maintained? (For example, does the agency avoid using fees collected from one group to subsidize activities focused on a different group?)
  • Accountability and oversight: What procedures are followed for internal monitoring or overseeing subunits of the agency? What procedures or structures are in place for external monitoring of the agency? What documentation requirements are in place and are agency staff adhering to them?
  • Management information systems: What, if any, symptoms of an inadequate management information system are present? Are there operational deficiencies, psychological deficiencies or report content deficiencies? Issues to consider include information costs and benefits, user satisfaction, technical capability—such as system response time and interfacing capability. There are also operational characteristics—such as ease of data input and error rates—availability of internal controls, and availability of system support.
  • Operations and performance: This area includes having and using performance measures or unit productivity measures, which compare input measures to output measures.

This list is intended to help analysts start thinking in concrete terms about the kinds of issues that could be included in the scope of a broadly mandated study or audit. Some of our JLARC studies focus exclusively on one of these areas considered especially problematic. Others include several areas.  It all depends on the agency’s situation and the study’s mandate. Finally, this list is not exhaustive, nor is it a recipe for what to include in the report. Rather, it is meant to be a catalyst for beginning to put some order into what at first may seem like total chaos.

This is the fourth in a series of ‘oldie but goodie’ articles culled from past issues of the NLPES newsletter.  It first appeared in the Fall 2002 issue of the NLPES News.

The words "What we do"Developing New Audit Staff:  First Writing Assignments | Brad Carter (Georgia)

To a new performance auditor, the initial writing and reviewing process can be an anxious period, even under ideal conditions. Agreeing on specific benchmarks, responsibilities and expectations can make the process easier for both new staff and audit management. Implementing a plan with the following in mind can make an otherwise difficult process a constructive learning experience while still providing valuable input to the audit. 

Often, new auditors are left scratching their heads as to the structure, form and style of writing effectively for a legislative audience. Similarly, veteran audit managers and team leaders may be challenged with determining what to hold new staff accountable for on their first assignments. This is an especially difficult period when staff do not have the luxury of hours of pre-audit training and experience. Usually, they must jump into an audit already in progress. Many state audit organizations need staff who can contribute quickly and meaningfully to a sometimes harried work schedule, such as helping with time-sensitive audits in response to legislative requests, or conducting thorough quality control reviews of reports waiting for release, etc. It’s important for both new staff and management to be cognizant that effective performance audit writing is not intuitive and takes time, effort and understanding to develop.

Team leaders and audit managers are responsible for not only reviewing and critiquing new staff’s work, but also conveying the uniqueness and difficulty of writing for a legislative audience. Audit management should be aware this can often be a frustrating period for new auditors and the following activities may help soften the blow of review while at the same time assist with staff development. 

Set clear expectations for first assignments: Concise and complete communication of expectations for new staff regarding their initial written work is essential for developing strong team members. Feedback before and after submission of early work assists in building a new auditor’s ability and confidence. This should include as much detail as managers are comfortable providing while also taking the time to explain why it is important. Time spent establishing these factors up front saves time later in review. Management should also be honest about their individual preferences for style and form. Audit managers and team leaders often say that format and style mean little next to content, but for new staff, formatting corrections can simply add to their anxieties about what is “right” or “wrong” about their work. 

Feedback, feedback, feedback: New staff crave feedback. They want to know whether what they have done is incorrect or correct, right or wrong, good or bad. Receiving little or no feedback on early work can be far more frustrating than receiving too much. When reviewing and discussing early working papers and report writing assignments, team leaders and managers should be prepared to take extra time to discuss why specific edits are meaningful. There should be dedicated time for team leaders and/or audit managers and new staff to discuss their work, review comments, and ask questions. Providing specific examples of work before and after review and edit assists staff in understanding what well-written work and effective audit writing should look like. 

Build in time for review: Deadlines are an important part of audit report writing, but for new staff they can be especially challenging. Audit managers and team leaders should be prepared to be flexible and build in additional time for reviewing the work of new staff, providing additional feedback and explanation. New staff often lack an understanding of how their work fits into the larger scope of an audit. Time spent educating new team members on how and why their work is important and necessary also conveys a sense of ownership and responsibility. 

Learning the craft of performance audit writing while simultaneously trying to understand the larger picture of an audit can be a source of anxiety for new auditors. Similarly, audit managers and team leaders often find themselves under pressure to complete audits quickly. When working with new staff, audit managers and team leaders should build in the time and effort to develop their audit writing skills through setting clear expectations and goals, providing essential feedback and review, and giving new staff additional time for reviewing their work and meeting deadlines. Doing so will help new staff become more engaged and have a greater sense of ownership in their work and the overall audit.

Brad Carter is a principal analyst with the Performance Audit Division of the Georgia Department of Audits and Accounts. He can be reached at carterb@audits.ga.gov.

News & Snippets

Image of a person holding a newspaperStop the Presses! Audit Shops in the News | Dale Carlson (California)

Foster children coming into contact with sex offenders, education spending, Medicaid overpayments, taxpayers being billed for money they did not owe, publicly owned vehicle abuses, and an agency operating without a lease agreement. These are but a few of the topics the media covered from April through July 2015 from reports issued by our member offices.

 

 

 

ARIZONA
Critics: Child Agency Shouldn't Focus on Law Enforcement
July 30, 2015 – Arizona Public Media – The Arizona Auditor General released a new report Wednesday that highlights the increasing number of abused and neglected children entering state care. 
Office of the Auditor General  [Click for full report]

ARKANSAS
Audit raps state DHS for no-bid tech projects
July 22, 2015 – Northwest Arkansas Gazette – The state Department of Human Services failed to consistently follow state purchasing laws and rules when hiring companies for two information technology projects and for help with the state's health care payment overhaul, state auditors say. A special report by the Legislative Audit Division faulted the department for awarding contracts without competitive bidding, failing to hold vendors accountable and failing to adequately disclose projects to the Arkansas Legislature.
Division of Legislative Audit  [Click for full report]

CALIFORNIA
State auditor cites failure to protect foster youth from sex offenders
July 3, 2015 – Los Angeles Times –California's auditor has issued a stark assessment of the state Social Services Department's safeguards for foster youth, highlighting breakdowns that may have put children at risk and led to millions of wasted dollars. The report, issued Thursday, said an initial review uncovered up to 8,600 children who could have come into contact with sex offenders.
State Auditor’s Office  [Click for full report]

GEORGIA
State audit: easier to get costly nursing home care than home help
May 8, 2015 – AJC.com – It’s easier for Georgians to get a bed in a nursing home than less-expensive home and community-based services, costing the government big money, according to a follow-up state audit released Friday.
Department of Audits and Accounts, Performance Audit Division  [Click for full report]

HAWAI‘I
State auditor slams Hawaii Health Connector for wasting $12M in public funds on vendor
Sept. 1, 2015 – Pacific Business News – A state audit released Tuesday alleges that the Hawaii Health Connector used faulty procurement practices for its former vendor Mansha Consulting LLC, wasting $11.6 million in taxpayer money.
Office of the Auditor  [Click for full report]

KANSAS
Sex predator program costs to double by 2025, report says
April 28, 2015 – KSN.com – The state’s auditing agency says that the cost of civilly committing sexual predators for treatment in Kansas will double during the next 10 years. The Legislative Division of Post-Audit presented a report Tuesday that estimates the program’s cost will increase from $13.9 million in 2014 to between $26 million and $34 million in 2025.
Legislative Division of Post Audit  [Click for full report]

MICHIGAN
Audit: Mich. billed taxpayers for money they didn’t owe
July 20, 2015 – Detroit Free Press – Some Michigan taxpayers were billed for money they didn’t owe, the state paid tens of thousands of dollars in unneeded processing costs, and taxpayer information was inadequately secured because of numerous weaknesses at the Michigan Treasury, the state Auditor General has found.
Office of the Auditor General  [Click for full report]

MISSISSIPPI
Report: Drugs, child abuse not the cause of Hancock County's DHS crisis
July 28, 2015 – SunHerald – Several internal factors within Hancock County's Youth Court and its Department of Human Services office, rather than drug use or child abuse, appear to be the primary causes of the county's high number of children in state custody, according to a report by the state Legislature's investigative committee.
Joint Committee on Performance Evaluation and Expenditure Review  [Click for full report]

NEVADA
Audit finds $1 million in state Medicaid overpayments
May 4, 2015 – Las Vegas Review-Journal – An audit of the state Medicaid program released Monday identified more than $1 million in overpayments and improper billings. Legislative Counsel auditors identified $780,000 in overpayments for behavioral health claims, and $285,000 in overpayments and improper billings for dental claims. Examples of overbilling included a dentist who submitted 4,177 claims, or 48 percent of all claims statewide, for “emergency treatment of dental pain — minor procedure” in fiscal years 2012 and 2013.
Le
gislative Counsel Bureau – Audit Division [Click for full report]

 

NEW JERSEY
Audit: New Jersey Casino Agency Cars Used for Commuting
July 25, 2015 – NBC Philadelphia – Official cars used by the state agency that regulates casinos were improperly used most of the time by workers to commute to and from work, a state audit found earlier this year, and the agency has since undertaken new training for all its employees and continuing a review of its vehicles. The auditor's report found that 77 percent of the usage of the division's fleet of 109 cars was for commuting purposes and that a nearly 64,000 square-foot building mostly occupied by the commission was underused.
Office of the State Auditor  [Click for full report]

NEW MEXICO
Report Calls For Curbing Medicaid Costs
June 25, 2015 – KUNM – Legislative analysts are warning that the price tag for providing health care to low-income New Mexicans will top more than $1 billion in state general funds by 2020 and steps need to be taken to curb costs. Analysts with the Legislative Finance Committee released their findings Wednesday during a meeting in Albuquerque.
Legislative Finance Committee  [Click for full report]

NORTH CAROLINA
N.C. state health plan’s liability is growing
July 27, 2015 – The News and Observer – North Carolina lawmakers are reckoning with a $25.5 billion problem – and it isn’t a draft of the state’s annual budget, though it’s nearly that size. The $25.5 billion figure, from 2013 but the focal point of a new legislative report, is attributable partly to the program’s “pay-as-you-go” approach and many workers’ eligibility for 100 percent premium coverage from the state. The new report, from the legislature’s Program Evaluation Division, informed lawmakers that North Carolina in fiscal year 2012-13 had the nation’s 41st highest unfunded liability per state resident for retiree health benefits.
Program Evaluation Division  [Click for full report]

SOUTH CAROLINA
Audit: Oversight of S.C. abortion clinics needs improvement
May 6, 2015 – The Post and Courier – The agency that oversees South Carolina’s three abortion clinics has failed to implement consistent oversight, follow-up on complaints and penalize facilities when warranted, an audit released Wednesday found.
Legislative Audit Council  [Click for full report]

TEXAS
Audit Finds "Significant Weaknesses" in GLO Contracting
July 28, 2015 – The Texas Tribune – The General Land Office’s contracting procedures are riddled with “significant weaknesses” that threaten the agency’s ability to ensure it is wisely spending its dollars, State Auditor John Keel said in a report made public Tuesday. The audit, which specifically dinged the 179-year-old agency for how it handled two contracts and dealt with one potential conflict of interest, comes amid heightened interest in the way Texas agencies spend millions of taxpayer dollars.
S
tate Auditor's Office  [Click for full report]

UTAH
Audit: Utah Poison Control Center has no lease agreement with the U
July 14, 2015 – Deseret News – The Utah Poison Control Center needs to enter into an official contract with the University of Utah for the space it uses on campus and should adjust its employment practices to keep costs down, according to a state audit released Tuesday. The Utah Poison Control Center paid the U. $2.5 million from 2008 to 2010 as a payment to allow it to stay on campus rent-free indefinitely. The payment was a pricey one for the center and "lacked documentation," the audit states.
Office of the Legislative Auditor General  [Click for full report]

WISCONSIN
Auditor: WEDC did not conduct staff review of questionable $500K loan
June 3, 2015 – The Journal Times.com – State auditors confirmed Tuesday that Gov. Scott Walker’s flagship job-creation agency failed to conduct a financial review of a struggling business that received a $500,000 state loan that is now in default and has not been repaid. Previously, the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. said it couldn’t locate underwriting documents for the loan made to Milwaukee construction company Building Committee Inc. after top administration aides pressed for it.
Legislative Audit Bureau  [Click for full report]

 

 

 

 

 

 

Share your coverage with us!  If you would like an article highlighted in our next newsletter, send a hyperlink to rhibbard@auditor.state.hi.us.

Photograph of downtown Seattle

Executive Committee News

The NLPES Executive Committee met during the NCSL Summit, which was held Aug. 3-6 in Seattle.Photograph of sunflowers

The committee reviewed the status of ongoing subcommittee work and primarily discussed plans for the upcoming Professional Development Seminar in Denver in October. 

Minutes of the April 13, 2015, meeting were approved and are now available online.

 

 

Image of a blue ribbon2015 NLPES Awards | Nathalie Molliet-Ribet (Virginia)

NLPES offers awards in four categories to recognize exceptional performance among our offices:

Photograph of Max ArinderThe Outstanding Achievement award is given to an individual who has made outstanding contributions to the field of legislative program evaluation. The 2015 winner is Max K. Arinder, director (retired), Mississippi Joint Committee on Performance Evaluation and Expenditure Review (PEER) (pictured).

The Excellence in Evaluation award is provided to the office found to have contributed the most to the field of program evaluation during the past four years (2011-2014). The 2015 winner is the New Mexico Legislative Finance Committee (pictured).

Photograph of New Mexico Legislative Finance Committee staffAn Excellence in Research Methods award is presented to the office or offices that have demonstrated outstanding use of evaluation research methods in a report released during 2014. The 2015 winner is the Florida Office of Program Policy Analysis & Government Accountability (OPPAGA) for its Report No. 14-02 entitled, Expansion Drug Courts Can Produce Positive Outcomes Through Prison Diversion and Reduced Recidivism.

Certificates of Impact are awarded to offices that released a report in 2013 or 2014 that had a documented public policy impact. The 2015 winners are Arizona, California, Colorado, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Kansas, Louisiana, Maine, Michigan, Mississippi, Montana, North Carolina, Oregon, South Carolina, Texas, Texas Sunset Advisory Commission, Utah, Virginia, Washington, Wisconsin and Wyoming.

This year’s winners have been notified and will be officially presented with their awards during NLPES’ Professional Development Seminar in Denver in October. Congratulations to all winners!

Details about the winning offices and reports are posted on the NLPES website.

Nathalie Molliet-Ribet is the 2014-2015 chair of the Awards Subcommittee.  She can be contacted at nmolliet@jlarc.virginia.gov

Image of the word "jawohl!"The Lighter Side

Who hasn’t seen this floating around the Internet at some point?  I just came across it while cleaning out my emails and had a chuckle once again.  Hope you enjoy.  –The editor

The European Commission has just announced an agreement whereby English will be the official language of the European Union rather than German, which was the other possibility.

As part of the negotiations, the British Government conceded that English spelling had some room for improvement and has accepted a five-year phase-in plan that would become known as "Euro-English."

In the first year, "s" will replace the soft "c."  Sertainly, this will make the sivil servants jump with joy. 

The hard "c" will be dropped in favour of "k".  This should klear up konfusion, and keyboards kan have one less letter.  There will be growing publik enthusiasm in the sekond year when the troublesome "ph" will be replaced with "f".  This will make words like fotograf 20% shorter.

In the 3rd year, publik akseptanse of the new spelling kan be expekted to reach the stage where more komplikated changes are possible.  Governments will enkourage the removal of double letters which have always ben a deterent to akurate speling.

Also, al wil agre that the horibl mes of the silent "e" in the languag is disgrasful and it should go away.

By the 4th yer people wil be reseptiv to steps such as replasing "th" with "z" and "w" with "v".

During ze fifz yer, ze unesesary "o" kan be dropd from vords kontaining "ou" and after ziz fifz yer, ve vil hav a reil sensibl riten styl.

Zer vil be no mor trubl or difikultis and evrivun vil find it ezi tu understand ech oza. Ze drem of a united urop vil finali kum tru.

Und efter ze fifz yer, ve vil al be speking German like zey vunted in ze forst plas.

Image of the words "Check it Out!"Websites and resources

NLPES website: Spend a few moments touring our NLPES website to learn more about NLPES and see what we do. You’ll find general information about NLPES, including our by-laws, Executive Committee membership and subcommittees, state contacts, awards, and information on peer reviews. We also have a training library and resources including past meeting minutes, newsletters and more. Check it out!

Image representing an email send buttonNLPES listserv: The 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 (brenda.erickson@ncls.org).

Legislative careers website: Know someone thinking about pursuing a career with a state legislature? Point them to the opportunities posted 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’ online training library | Training Products Matrix: Visit 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 topics. Most are PowerPoint slides; some are narrated; a few are webinars or podcasts. Check them out!

JLARC presentation on Web reporting: In 2014, the state of Washington Joint Legislative Audit and Review Committee (JLARC) began issuing audit reports as Web pages rather than PDF documents. Reports are now readily accessible on computers, mobile devices, and tablets. JLARC has received favorable comments on the change from legislators, legislative and executive branch staff and the public. Writing for the Web requires a change in perspective, in addition to changes in technology. A presentation about how JLARC undertook its Web-reporting effort will be added to the NLPES library in September 2015. Contact Valerie Whitener, audit coordinator, JLARC, valerie.whitener@leg.wa.gov, with questions. Visit our website to see samples of our Web reports.

Image of "Ask GAO Live"Ask GAO Live: Have you seen this website? AskGAOLive 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.

 

Photograph of a capitol domeEnsuring the Public Trust 2015: NLPES has updated "Ensuring the Public Trust," an invaluable overview publication of legislative evaluation offices across the country. What’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? Browse the 2015 EPT to find out!

 

 

The words "Upcoming Events"Upcoming Events

2015 NLPES Professional Development Seminar – Denver

The 2015 PDS is nearly upon us! Join us in Denver on Oct. 11-14 at The Curtis Hotel downtown. We will have a full three-day conference filled with plenty of staff development and networking activities. Registration is $350 per person—a fantastic deal for more than 20 hours of CPE creditand The Curtis is $163 per night, plus tax. Look for these exciting topics at the PDS:

General Sessions

  •          Dealing With Constant Change in the Workplace.
  •          Five Behaviors of a Cohesive Team.
  •          State Policy Trends: Today's Trends Become Tomorrow's Audits and Evaluations.

Photograph of Denver's City ParkConcurrent Sessions

  •          Supervising Savvy: Delivering Concrete Feedback and Providing Guidance With Confidence and Grace.
  •          Hiring and Onboarding the Best and the Brightest with a Focus on Long-Term Retention.
  •          Evaluating Programs That Serve Vulnerable Populations.
  •          Evaluating Roads, Bridges, and Other Transportation Projects.
  •          Evaluating Health Exchanges and ACA Requirements.
  •          Evaluating Oil & Gas, Natural Resources, Fish & Wildlife, and Public Lands Programs.
  •          It's Where the Data Are: IT Considerations When Planning Audits and Evaluations.
  •          Strategies and Approaches for Planning Audit and Evaluation Topics.
  •          Report Formats, Style Guides, Copy Editing, and Other Practices.
  •          Showcasing Office Technologies
  •          Going Green: What is the GAO's New Green Book and How Might We Use It In Audits and Evaluations?
  •          Public vs. Private? Balancing Openness and Transparency in Reporting While Safeguarding Confidential or Sensitive Information.
  •          Managing Audits and Evaluations in the Legislative Environment.
  •          Emerging Issues Roundtable.
  •          Impact Award Winners - Poster Session.

Conference schedule summary:

 

Monday 10/12/2015

8 a.m.-4:30 p.m.    Registration/Info Desk
7-7:20 a.m.             Morning Walk
7:30-8:30 a.m.       Breakfast
8:30-8:45 a.m.       Welcome & Announcements
8:45-10:15 a.m.     General Session
10:25-11:55 a.m.   Concurrent Session 1
                                 Concurrent Session 2
1:15-2:45 p.m.        Concurrent Session 3
                                 Concurrent Session 4
2:55-4:25 p.m.        Poster Session
5:30-6:30 p.m.        Evening Reception

Tuesday 10/13/2015

8-4:30 p.m              Registration/Info Desk
7-7:20 a.m.             Morning Walk
7:30-8:30 a.m.       Breakfast
8:30-8:40 a.m.       Announcements
8:40-10:40 a.m.     General Session
10:50-12:05 p.m.   Concurrent Session 5
                                 Concurrent Session 6
12:15-2 p.m.           Awards Luncheon
2:10-3:25 p.m.        Concurrent Session 7
                                 Concurrent Session 8
3:35-4:50 p.m.        Concurrent Session 9
                                 Concurrent Session 10
5:30-7 p.m.              Evening Reception Offsite

Wednesday 10/14/2015

8 a.m.-3:30 p.m.       Registration/Info Desk
7:00-7:20 a.m.          Morning Walk
7:30-8:30 a.m.          Breakfast
8:30-8:40 a.m.          Announcements
8:40-9:55 a.m.          General Session
10:05-11:35 a.m.     Concurrent Session 11
                                   Concurrent Session 12
12:55-1:10 p.m.        Concurrent Session 13
                                   Concurrent Session 14
1:20-2:35 p.m.          Closing Session: Emerging Issues Roundtable
3:15-4:45 p.m.          Optional Tour of Colorado State Capitol

 

 

This information will be updated on the NLPES website.  See you in Denver!

 

The Working Paper is published three 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.
Dale Carlson, 2014-2015 chair (CA)
Rachel Hibbard, newsletter editor (HI)

NCSL Liaison to NLPES
Brenda Erickson, (303) 856-1391
NCSL Denver Office • (303) 364-7700