The Winchendon Courier
Serving the community since 1878 ~ A By Light Unseen Media publication
Week of September 16 to September 23, 2021

Auditor Bump Provides Testimony in Support of Accountability Agenda

Legislation would give the Auditor's Office necessary authority as it examines state spending of federal COVID-19 relief funding

Boston (September 14, 2021) - State Auditor Suzanne M. Bump testified today before the Joint Committee on State Administration and Regulatory Oversight in support of two bills, part of her agency's "Accountability Agenda," which would strengthen the Auditor's Office's oversight of state agencies and improve internal controls within state agencies. The two bills, An Act Improving Government Accountability and An Act Improving the Internal Controls within State Agencies, seek to make state government more effective, efficient, and accountable.

"These bills reflect lessons I have learned during my 11 years as State Auditor," Bump said in her testimony. "Modern. Effective. Accountable. These are standards by which our auditors evaluate the activities of government agencies and contractors, and it is in these areas that these bills will help the Office of the State Auditor better meet our mission and in the shorter term, better oversee the performance of state agencies and spending of the billions of dollars of COVID-related federal relief. My pursuit of these measures today is in the spirit of making government work better now and in the years to come."

During her testimony, Bump stressed the urgency for passage of these bills, particularly for An Act improving Government Accountability, which would give the Auditor's Office the necessary authority to hold state agencies and departments more accountable as they allocate federal COVID-19 relief funding, including the CARES Act and the American Rescue Plan (ARPA).

"Since the pandemic took hold, we have seen a historic amount of funding from the federal government flow to Massachusetts. Congress passed numerous rounds of relief, including the CARES Act and the American Rescue Plan to directly support state governments in their response and ongoing recovery. The ability to oversee spending of these funds is critical," Bump said in her testimony. "Our bill, An Act Improving Government Accountability, would give our office the necessary leverage and authority as we carry out this important work."

Bump pointed out that timely access to data and information for audits is one of the most significant challenges her office faces. She highlighted that this bill will require state agencies to provide the relevant information and data needed to complete her office's audit objectives, in its native format, within ten business days—the same standard set by the state's public records law. The bill will also allow her to require state agencies to develop corrective action plans to address issues identified by her audits. These plans would then be submitted to the State Auditor's Office, the Governor's office, and the Legislature. She also noted that the measure will make her office's enabling statute gender neutral.

Additionally, Bump provided testimony for An Act Improving the Internal Controls within State Agencies, which will make changes to the state's internal control law. Currently, state agencies must report lost, stolen, or damaged state property or funds to the State Auditor's Office. The measure will allow the State Comptroller to promulgate regulations regarding this reporting process, including the creation of a reporting threshold. It will also extend this reporting requirement to independent state authorities. Finally, the bill will require the Comptroller to establish a training program for state agencies to assist them in developing and implementing required internal controls and reporting policies. This legislation is also being supported by the Comptroller of the Commonwealth, William McNamara.

Bump's full testimony is available here.

Audit Suggests Division of Professional Licensure Improve Oversight of Criminal and Sex Offender Background Checks for Applicants

Second audit in five years reveals the need for further corrective action at DPL

BOSTON (Septemner 15, 2021) - According to an audit released today by the Office of State Auditor Suzanne M. Bump (OSA), the Division of Professional Licensure (DPL), now referred to as the Division of Occupational Licensure, has for years been unable to determine whether its boards and commissions were performing Criminal Offender Record Information (CORI) and Sex Offender Record Information (SORI) checks before professional licenses were issued. The inadequacy and unreliability of DPL's data meant that neither the agency nor the OSA auditors could determine how many professionals were licensed without undergoing required background checks.

Additionally, although CORIs are not required for all job applicants under agency procedures, the audit recommends that DPL issue guidance for its boards to help them determine whether their licensees serve vulnerable populations and therefore should be subject to CORI checks. DPL conducts SORI checks for all applicants, but does not perform CORIs for all the licenses it has been overseeing.

"DPL's failure to ensure criminal background checks were being conducted by its boards and commissions is a glaring failure in administration, one which the agency has now acknowledged. Now that DPL is in the process of an organizational overhaul, the time is ripe to address deficiencies in the licensure and background check process," Bump said of the audit. "While this is not the first time that our office has identified the need for corrective action at DPL, it is my hope that our recommendations from this audit are acted upon swiftly to ensure the safety of patrons and residents."

The audit released today examined the period of July 1, 2017 through March 31, 2020 and relied on information from DPL's two software programs, Acela and MyLicense Office (MLO). These programs, which have been utilized for DPL's 28 boards and its Office of Public Safety and Inspections (OPSI), respectively, are intended to track license applications, license renewals, CORI and SORI checks. During the audit period, for 67 percent of the 61,720 individuals that were granted licenses, CORI information was not available; SORI information was not available for 25,918 individuals (42 percent). While the Office of Public Safety and Inspections (OPSI) requires CORI checks of applications for 9 of its 85 license types, OPSI issued 31,740 licenses during the audit period, 99 percent of which had no CORI information available.

In addition to enforcing existing requirements for CORI and SORI checks, the audit makes other significant recommendations. One is that DPL provide guidance to boards and commissions which currently do not have background check rules in assessing whether their licensees pose a risk to vulnerable populations and, therefore should be background checked before being licensed. The second is that background checks be conducted upon license renewal, not just at license issuance.

DPL is responsible for oversight of 28 boards of registration, as well as the Office of Public Safety and Inspections and the Office of Private Occupational School Education. Collectively, DPL boards and offices license and regulate more than 580,000 individuals, businesses, and schools to engage over 150 trades and professions. During fiscal year 2019, DPL generated more than $53 million in revenue for the Commonwealth from licensing fees and other sources.

The full audit report is available here.