Promises kept: I pledged more transparency and more accountability. Today, the State Auditor’s website has more details about the budget, the contract with KPMG, as well as an improved strategic plan and performance report.

[About the State Auditor]

Whistleblower protection: Fear of retaliation has prevented many state employees from reporting waste, fraud, and abuse in state government. In order to encourage whistleblowers to come forward, I decided to create a safe place for them and persuaded the legislature to support a new law protecting their identities.

I was pleased to work with our Legislature to make this a reality. Find the bill here.

Savings: Making better use of taxpayer money is the focus of my office’s work:

• The State has a policy of contracting for services and materials in a cost effective manner through the use of an open and competitive contract solicitation process. According to the policy, sole source contracts awarded to a vendor without a competitive bid ought to be reserved for“extraordinary circumstances.” We examined hundreds of contracts across five agencies and departments and found that while sole source contracts are intended for extraordinary circumstances, this selection method is commonplace for some departments and agencies. In fiscal year 2015, sole source agreements accounted for 41% of all contracts awarded and amounted to $68 million, or 27% of the total dollar value (just a portion of state government). The high frequency of sole source contracts reviewed for this analysis raises questions about the effectiveness of the State’s contract management. The State’s longstanding policy to competitively bid for contracts is meant to ensure taxpayers receive the highest values for their contracted dollars and Vermont businesses are afforded an equal opportunity to obtain contracts. We encourage the administration to improve its oversight of the procurement process.

Read our report here.

• Workforce education and training are vital to the economy. The State has supported workforce education and training for many years using taxpayer funds to help businesses and employees meet their training needs. The largest such state-funded effort is the Vermont Training Program (VTP). The VTP provides direct grants to eligible businesses to cover either 50 percent of wages for each employee while engaged in on-the-job training or up to 50 percent of the trainer’s expense. In addition, the VTP offers grants to training providers who deliver offsite classroom training to employees from targeted sectors. Annual funding for the program is currently $1.3 million.

We examined the VTP to determine how it is performing and if it is in compliance with the statute. We found that 1) the VTP has no effective internal controls to ensure that applicants meet the various eligibility requirements or that grant funds are only used for supplemental, rather than replacement, training; 2) the wage increases reported for trainees may not accurately reflect changes in hourly wages and may reflect other factors not related to VTP training; and 3) a substantial portion of VTP’s total resources are directed to a few large corporations year after year. We encouraged the administration to improve its internal controls and we suggested that the legislature consider whether it is desirable for so much of the limited resources available to the VTP to be directed to a few very large corporations year after year.

Read our report here.

• Our audit of the Vermont Department of Labor (DOL) found that the Unemployment Insurance (UI) division lacked reliable performance data for its field audit program, and the Workers’ Compensation (WC) division’s primary system for recording investigation case data has limited functionality and contains data anomalies and duplicate case information. These issues have limited DOL’s ability to measure the impact its UI field audit and WC investigation programs have had on detecting misclassification.

In addition, the Agency of Transportation (AOT) and the Department of Buildings & General Services (BGS) had failed to consistently apply required procedures orvalidate information reported by state contractors regarding worker classification violations within the past 12 months. Consequently, BGS and AOT risked contracting with businesses that violated state employment laws in the previous 12 months.

Read our report here.

Public policy: We just issued a report calling for greater access to information about the cost of medical services. The legislature called for this years ago but to date the state has not made it a priority. The data exists but needs to be made available to consumers.

Read our report here.

Work in Progress: We are currently engaged in the following performance audits:

• Dept. of Information & Innovation: Describe the operations of the state’s web portal services.

• Department for Children & Families (DCF): 1) Determine whether and how the DCF Economic Services Division (ESD) prevents and detects beneficiary eligibility fraud and 2) Determine the extent to which claims are established, beneficiaries are disqualified, and improper payments are recovered for ESD programs.

• Department of Vermont Health Access (DVHA): Assess how DVHA is evaluating the performance of the Vermont Information Technology Leaders (VITL).

See our calendar of upcoming work here.

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