By Secretary of State Dennis Richardson —
When I was elected as your Secretary of State, I promised Oregon that I would increase transparency, accountability, and integrity in our state government. One of the ways I’ve worked diligently to do this is through the Secretary of State’s audit function:
- We disclosed how Oregon’s foster care system was failing our children.
- We exposed Portland Public School’s inequitable 53% achievement gap between white and African-American students.
- We revealed that Oregon could close its current $623 million state budget gap through increased efficiency and without raising new taxes.
- We discovered approximately $106.2 million in questionable spending during our 2017-18 audits of state agencies and between $400 million and $1.6 billion in additional questionable spending during our 2018-19 audits.
We also created and will continue our robust follow-up program to ensure that agencies are held accountable for fixing problems identified in past audits.
Today, we released our audit plan for the coming year and want to give you a preview. Based on established national criteria, the professional audit team here in the Secretary of State’s office prioritized audits in high-risk areas. We relied upon information compiled from past audits and audit activity in other states as well as from whistleblowers, agency leadership, legislators, and many others. Most audit topics in this year’s plan are fairly broad, and audit teams will narrow the focus of audits during the audit scoping phase after completing preliminary research. This is a long and comprehensive process, and I credit the outstanding work of the highly professional audit team for their tireless work in researching and developing this year’s audit plan.
We’re pleased to share with you these critical upcoming audits:
Protecting Vulnerable Children
We will be a voice for the voiceless. We will audit whether Child Protective Services does enough to protect abused children, ensure that families are not arbitrarily separated, and that removal criteria are applied equitably for children of all ethnicities. We will also audit education support programs for children with special needs to ensure they are effective and efficient.
Mental Health Treatment
Few problems affect as many Oregonians as does the mental health crisis. Its victims range from war-scared veterans to the many people experiencing homelessness in Oregon’s cities. This audit will look at whether Oregon’s mental health system is working effectively and how it can be improved. We will also audit medical practitioner licensing to ensure that appropriate accountability is in place.
Oregonians approved Measure 98 in 2016 to expand academic excellence, vocational training, and dropout prevention. This audit will look at ways to strengthen these programs.
Oregon’s public schools are facing rapidly rising costs for employee health insurance and the Public Employee Retirement System (PERS). These are two of the largest cost drivers that influence future education priorities. We will audit PERS reform options and ways to reduce health insurance costs.
Stopping Workplace Harassment and Discrimination
The #MeToo movement has exposed a dark side of our culture and allowed victims to be heard. We will audit state protections against sexual harassment, racial discrimination, and other subversive workplace problems that must be identified and ended.
Water Toxins and Wildfires
In 2018, toxic algae blooms in Detroit Lake contaminated Salem’s water supply for weeks. This audit will ensure that appropriate protections for safe drinking water are in place statewide, which will also help protect fish and recreational water users. We will also do an enhanced follow-up review of wildfire prevention strategies undertaken by the state since the 2016 audit on this topic.
We will continue to scour the state for efficiency improvements and cost savings. Efficiency audits will focus on a large IT project, legal costs and contracting, state property management, and large transportation projects.
Effective Economic Development
Since 2011, the Governor’s office has included a regional solutions team to streamline approval across multiple government entities for job-creating projects. We will audit whether this is working as intended, including for struggling communities in both inner cities and rural Oregon. We will also audit whether the office of Travel Oregon is spending money effectively to boost Oregon tourism industries.
We will audit state protections of Oregonians’ personal information to ensure it stays safe and prevent data breaches.
Medicaid Audit Team
We want to protect Medicaid and ensure that resources go to those who truly need help. Our 2017 Medicaid audit uncovered $74 million in improper payments. Recently, California auditors found $4 billion in improper payments. This is also a focus area for the federal Government Accountability Office (GAO), so I’ve asked the Legislature to approve a new full-time Medicaid Audit team to focus on finding efficiencies in this $13 billion program.
As public servants, we work for you, the citizens of Oregon. Our auditing approach is citizen-centric with the key goal of expanding transparency, accountability, and integrity in Oregon government.
I’m proud of the professional audits team and am excited about these upcoming audits. Stay tuned.