Many of the problems with incorrect or delayed income tax refunds in 1999 occurred because inaccurate information was entered into the Department's computer through equipment "misreads," data conversion problems, staff or taxpayer errors, etc. Other problems were caused by bugs or a lack of edits in the computer software. Also, the system lacked some important controls to prevent inappropriate refunds or adjustments. New software installed in November 1999 contains fixes for many of the problems we saw, and will bring the sales tax process on line. That process also could experience problems in 2000 because of a lack of time to adequately test the computer programs before they had to be installed to meet Y2K deadlines. On average, income tax refunds took almost five weeks to generate in 1999, about twice as long as in 1998. Contributing factors: the need to reprogram the computer to handle changes in the tax laws, and an increased amount of work to be done by fewer staff. Also, many refund checks were returned because staff didn't update taxpayers' addresses. These delays and other factors resulted in about $1.2 million in interest being paid on refunds as of September 1999, compared with an average of $560,000 for the three previous years. Further, the way the Department interprets the laws related to interest on refunds and the amounts to be paid under the food sales tax refund program may result in the State paying out millions more than it needs to. Delayed refunds, coupled with unnecessary or confusing correspondence sent to taxpayers, caused a huge volume of phone calls to the Department, most of which weren't answered. Although the telephone system has been improved, a repeat of 1999's tax-processing problems likely will cause phone problems to surface again in 2000. Finally, the Department's system of checks and controls to try to ensure that taxpayers' checks aren't accidentally shredded appears to be adequate.
Examining Issues Related to Community Developmental Disability Organizations, Part II: Reviewing Implementation and Funding Issues
The Developmental Disability Reform Act created an inherent conflict of interest by making CDDOs the single point of application, eligibility determination, and service referral for clients seeking services, while at the same time allowing them to continue providing services. Many parents and guardians think they haven't received adequate information from CDDOs about the availability of services in their areas. The law requires the Department to establish an open and equitable contracting process, and some independent service providers are dissatisfied with the process and certain contractual terms. The Act also requires the rates used to reimburse service providers to be independently reviewed every two years. We identified several flaws with the way the Department used cost data in making its 1997 rate recommendations to the Legislature. Developmental disability funds generally are allocated among CDDOs on a reasonable basis, but some moneys–discretionary State aid and fiscal year 2000 waiting list funds–may not have been allocated equitably. The State's system doesn't have enough money to fund all the services eligible people are requesting. The Legislature has increased funding significantly over the last few years, but those funds haven't kept up with the number of clients coming into the system. In addition, some services for existing clients are underfunded. We couldn't tell whether the State could save administrative costs by reducing the system's administrative structure, and most people think there would be more disadvantages than advantages to consolidating CDDO areas.
Examining Issues Related to Community Developmental Disability Organizations, Part I: Assessing Effectiveness and Availability of Services
Most eligible developmentally disabled clients who'd sought services from the State were getting them as of June 1999. However, Statewide nearly 8% of the people who'd sought services (about 600 clients) were waiting for one or more services. About half of those hadn't received any services, and were on the Department's list of clients waiting for services. The other half were considered to be "underserved," and weren't on the Department's list. Most of the clients waiting for services were in the five urban centers of the State, the majority of them were children, and the most common services they were waiting for were in-home services. Lack of funding was the most commonly cited factor for limiting access to disability services. Although a number of factors could limit access to service in rural CDDO areas – such as not all services being offered within a CDDO area or services being far away, we found that these factors generally weren't perceived as a significant barrier. Overall, parents and guardians responding to our survey told us that services are better now than before the Reform Act, but respondents from rural areas were more negative in their answers. The Department seems to have a good system in place for monitoring whether developmentally disabled adults are progressing toward broad lifestyle goals such as where they want to live or what work or activities they want to do. However, the Department doesn't measure how well children are meeting their goals, even though nearly half the children in the State's developmental disability system are getting direct services. As for adult clients' progress, the Department's outcome data, our survey responses from parents and guardians and a limited file review at three CDDOs showed that most adult clients had met or were making progress toward their goals.
Verifying Information Provided by the Department of Social and Rehabilitation Services on Its Compliance with the Terms of the Foster Care Lawsuit Settlement Agreement, Monitoring Report #10
In all, 49 of the 67 requirements due for assessment were monitored this period. For those 49 requirements, the Department was in compliance with 17 (35%), and wasn't in compliance with 32 (65%). The Department met the requirements specifically related to investigating reports of abuse and neglect, managing foster care cases, and handling adoptions only 41% of the time. In addition, the Department wasn't in compliance with two important requirements related to ensuring the safety of children, and it continued to be out of compliance with many requirements related to maintaining data and systems that contribute to the good management of the foster care system. We'll follow-up on these requirements next period. Finally, of the 18 requirements that weren't monitored this period, the parties removed two from the settlement agreement, and agreed to suspend monitoring of the other 16 while they negotiated issues related to them.
A K-GOAL Audit of the Department of Corrections, Part II: Assessing the Department’s Procedures for Dealing with Parole Violators
Kansas' parolee supervision and sanctioning procedures compare favorably to other states we reviewed, but only a few other states have detailed written criteria parole officers are to follow when issuing sanctions for parole violators. Lack of comparison data about parolees' criminal activity in other states makes it difficult to know whether Kansas' grid adequately protects the public, but half of the parole officers we surveyed thought it wasn't adequate. They told us more behaviors need to be considered violations, and sanctions need to be stricter. During a recent eight-month period, we found that few of the parole officers had completed all the routine supervision tasks that would help them to know if parolees were committing violations. However, when they did find violations, parole officers followed the sanctioning criteria about 82% of the time. In the 18% of the cases where officers didn't follow the criteria, they tended to be more lenient than allowed. When we reviewed cases involving parolees charged with committing serious crimes, we found that the sanctioning criteria wasn't followed as often as in the other random cases. In addition to supervision and sanctioning shortcomings in these serious cases, we also found communication problems.
Reviewing Payments From the Kansas Universal Service Fund
The Kansas Telecommunications Act of 1996 required local telephone companies to reduce how much they charge long distance phone companies to use their local lines for in-State long distance calls. It also allowed those lost revenues to be replaced by payments from the Kansas Universal Service Fund, achieving "revenue neutrality." During its first two years, about 96% of the $158 million spent by the Fund was used to replace those lost revenues. Some presentations have labeled significant portions of these payments as high-cost support, but they're essentially all based on replacing lost revenues. Aspects of the Act, including the revenue-neutral requirements, have been challenged in State court and before the Federal Communications Commission. Although Kansas' Supreme Court has upheld the law and related Kansas Corporation Commission actions, the Court did note that the revenue-neutral approach should be a transition stage on the way to cost-based payments from the Kansas Universal Service Fund. The federal decision is pending. The Corporation Commission and the Fund's administrator have established and generally are taking adequate steps to ensure that Fund moneys are collected and distributed properly. Uses of the Federal and Kansas Universal Service Funds generally don't duplicate each other. Among the six other state funds we looked at, size of the funds vary widely, and only Georgia and Arkansas also use their universal service funds to replace revenues local telephone companies were forced to give up.
Reviewing the 911 Emergency Phone Systems in Kansas, Part II: Federal Mandates and Organizational Structure
The FCC has issued regulations that require wireless phone companies, under certain conditions, to provide Enhanced 911 service for wireless phone users, which would provide dispatchers at public safety answering points with the phone number and location of the wireless caller. No one has compiled any cost estimates for Kansas, so we couldn't determine what it might cost taxpayers to provide this service. However, the costs are expected to be very high, especially for developing and implementing the technology to identify the wireless caller's location and transmit that information to the dispatch centers. (The state of Washington estimates its total implementation cost to be $68 million over the next five years.) Other states that have developed a cost recovery system to pay for these expenses have chosen some type of surcharge on wireless phone users; most have opted for a uniform statewide tax. Kansas' current structure for providing 911 places control of the program with local units of government without any central oversight or advisory body. This structure may result in some inefficiencies and higher costs, particularly as each locality attempts to meet the new FCC requirements for wireless Enhanced 911. However, some barriers tend to limit consolidation possibilities in spite of the potential benefits they offer. The 911 centers in the counties we visited generally followed adequate business practices designed to prevent inefficiencies and higher costs in daily operations. Statutory language defining allowable expenses from 911 tax moneys isn't clear, and some counties are planning future expenditures with those moneys that may be beyond what the Legislature intended that money to be used for.
Evaluating Certain Personnel and Financial Practices at the Kansas Department of Health and Environment (100-hour audit)
For a sample of bills paid in May 1999, about a fourth were paid late, but in many cases the delays were caused by the vendor, not the Department. Based on the same sample, the Department appeared to be purchasing from State contracts when appropriate. In awarding employee bonuses under three different bonus programs, the Department complied with applicable State laws and regulations. However, in the case of the Kansas Savings Incentive Program it didn't follow good management practices in making the awards. Hires and transfers of classified administrative personnel in the last two years were done in accordance with State laws and regulations. Although unclassified positions aren't required to have formal job descriptions, and although qualifications necessary to hold an unclassified job aren't spelled out in State law, unclassified administrative employees hired in the last two years appeared to be qualified for the positions they held.
Reviewing the Organization and Structure of the State Historical Society
The State Historical Society currently operates as two separate entities housed within a single agency. Each has separate employees, and keeps separate financial records. The majority of funding for the Society comes from State appropriations. Although this structure was similar to structures in two other states, we didn't find any states that operated exactly like Kansas. Potential structural problems we found, or that others pointed out to us, include a lack of clarity in the statutes about whether the Society is officially a State agency, a lack of accountability to anyone in State government by the executive director, the potential for the executive director to have too much influence over the decisions made by both the State and private sides of the agency, a potential conflict in having the executive director designated as the State's Historic Preservation Officer, and the likelihood that the board of directors is too large to be functional. In addition, people we talked to pointed out a number of problems not related to structure such as poor maintenance of historic sites, and poor performance in fund raising.
A K-GOAL Audit of the Department of Corrections, Part I: Assessing Staff Safety and Salary Issues
To deal with staff shortages, the prison facilities use relief staff, leave less-critical posts vacant (a plan called operational staffing), and rely on overtime. The medium- and minimum-security units at Lansing Correctional Facility are frequently operated at staffing levels that could compromise staff safety, and officials there often don't follow their operational staffing plan. In at least one case, an employee was seriously attacked while left alone because of staff shortages. Corrections officers have expressed general concerns about their safety. Other Kansas correctional facilities may be experiencing the same types of problems. Low salary levels have contributed to staffing shortages. Kansas corrections officer salaries were 11 % to 15% below salaries paid by other similar entities. Kansas also had one of the highest turnover rates in the five-state region over the past five years. A significant number of officers who've left the system cited low salaries as a reason for leaving, and many more say they've considered leaving for that reason. Inability to recruit staff to fill positions has worsened staff shortages, tripled overtime costs, and increased the burden on existing staff. Finally, although most officers say they have the type of communications equipment they need, and that it generally works, some specific problems mentioned include untimely equipment repair, some old and outdated equipment, and "dead spots" where communications signals won't penetrate.
Reviewing the 911 Emergency Phone Systems in Kansas, Part I: Identifying the Current Status
911 service is available in 100 counties and covers 98% of the State's population. The most common type of service is Enhanced 911—the format that gives the person answering the 911 call the caller's name, address, and telephone number. About one-fourth of the counties get a significant percentage of their 911 calls from cellular telephones. Residents of most counties are taxed at the maximum rate, and some counties carried over large balances of 911 tax revenues from 1998. However, officials in many counties told us they must build up a surplus before they can purchase new equipment. The 911 systems in 67 counties have been tested for computer problems associated with the Year 2000; officials in about half of those counties reported their systems were in compliance.
Analytical Review of Agencies' Receipt and Expenditure Trends
Quarterly, the Department of Social and Rehabilitation Services provides State and federal funding to 28 community developmental disability organizations who pass part of that money on to parents and guardians to help with expenses associated with having a developmentally disabled person living in the home. Some of these parents became concerned and called legislators after a newspaper article reported the Department was freezing payments to CDDOs. Additionally, some CDDOs told parents they might not get their April checks. The Department released about 85 percent of the money it owed CDDOs within 24 hours of deciding to hold up those payments. However, it did hold back about $750,000 until April 12th, when it released that money as well. Of the CDDOs we visited, only one delayed the April checks to parents, and that delay was only a few days. Ultimately, all the CDDOs we visited paid parents the full amounts they were supposed to receive.
Reviewing Revenues and Expenditures for the Vehicle Information Processing System and the Computer-Assisted Mass Appraisal System After Changes in State Law, Through Fiscal Year 1998
This audit was conducted by Berberich, Trahan & Co. under contract with Legislative Post Audit. It found that changes to State law in 1996 have resulted in about $7.9 million in additional revenues coming into the State during fiscal years 1997 and 1998 to help fund upgrades for the Kansas Vehicle Information Processing System and the Computer-Assisted Mass Appraisal System. This amount was about $4.2 million more than the Department of Revenue originally had estimated. About $2.9 million of these moneys was used to upgrade vehicle identification processing system computer hardware for counties with older equipment, almost exactly what the Department originally estimated would be spent on that project for fiscal years 1997 and 1998. In addition, although the Department had originally expected to spend about $1.1 million on the project for improving the computerized property appraisal system used by the counties, only about $40,000 actually has been spent. That money was used for a continuing assessment of the system's needs. Because acceptable software seems to be unavailable at this time, further expenditures on the project likely will be delayed.
Local law enforcement agencies have had to wait anywhere from two weeks to more than five months for the KBI to complete lab test results on the evidence they submitted. The Firearms, Biology, and Latent Prints Sections experienced the longest delays and had the largest backlogs of unprocessed work. Local law enforcement officials told us that having to wait for test results caused several problems, including delayed court proceedings and the release of arrested suspects. Staffing vacancies and increases in the number of cases being submitted for testing seem to have contributed the most to these delays. The number of cases submitted has grown by about 25% since 1993, and in February 1999 the Bureau's lab was operating with about 25% of its authorized positions vacant. Bureau officials indicate they're having trouble keeping employees and filling some vacant positions, at least partly because salaries are too low. Staffing shortages also have caused the Bureau to get way behind in entering certain data into two databases that are used to help solve crimes.
Reviewing the Quality of Care and Personnel Management at Kansas Neurological Institute
This audit showed mixed results regarding the quality of care at KNI. On the one hand, recent federally required reviews of KNI's operations show the level of care has improved, surveyed parents generally were satisfied with the level of care being provided, and the number of incidents and injuries at KNI has declined over the past five years. On the other hand, the number of deaths, hospitalizations, and reported instances of abuse or neglect at KNI has increased. Also, many direct-care and medical staff we surveyed thought the level of care had declined. Some direct-care staff think KNI is understaffed because they now must work with clients each day doing shopping, cooking, and laundry–things other KNI employees used to do. KNI didn't appear to be understaffed compared to other facilities for the mentally retarded, but at least one Kansas facility we looked at distributes its work among staff somewhat differently. We found that KNI officials generally met all the requirements for handling the personnel transactions we reviewed, but it was clear from survey responses and staff interviews that KNI has a serious morale problem related to perceived unfairness in hiring and promotions. We also found that oversight of time worked by employees is weak and has resulted in some abuses, and a lack of good records in other areas has sometimes hampered abuse investigations. Finally, during this audit we reviewed a number of allegations of mismanagement, misdeeds, and potential conflicts of interest. While some allegations appeared to be basically true, others appeared to be based on a lack of information or misinformation.
Reviewing Decision-Making at the State Board of Education
Several major policy decisions have been delayed because of tie votes by the State Board of Education. These decisions involved adoption of mathematics curriculum standards, approval of a contract for writing student assessments required by State law, and adopting new requirements for teacher certification. Although the fiscal impact of these delays has been minimal, the people in the educational community we talked with consistently mentioned frustration as a cost of the tie votes and delays. However, most people we spoke with during this audit also noted that there is a concentrated effort by the current Board members to work together.
Reviewing In-Home Services to Elderly Kansans: A K-GOAL Audit of the Department on Aging
The Department on Aging does a thorough job of evaluating the services provided to elderly Kansans in their own homes when those services are paid for with Medicaid moneys. For in-home services funded through non-Medicaid programs, however, the Department does too little monitoring to provide enough information about the quality of those services. Instead, it relies heavily on the Area Agencies to evaluate the service providers they contract with. Expanded Department oversight would provide more conclusive assurance for these programs that spending is appropriate and that the quality of services is acceptable. Although the State requires most agencies and individuals that provide in-home services to be licensed or certified, some of those agencies aren't being inspected as required by law because of budget shortfalls at the Department of Health and Environment. Further, State law mandates little regulation of the people who provide "hands-on" attendant care services. Finally, two of the three Area Agencies we visited weren't tracking the complaints they received about service quantity and quality, and the Department on Aging's resolution of complaints wasn't well documented. In both situations, there's a greater risk that problems won't be resolved or that patterns of recurring problems won't be identified.
Reviewing the Implementation of the 1993 Changes to the Worker’s Compensation Laws: A K-GOAL Audit of the Department of Human Resources
The Department hasn't improved its workers' compensation information system; it gathers the same kinds of information that it did five years ago. As a result, the Department doesn't have certain information—primarily related to costs—that the Legislature and others need to make good policy decisions. Further, because its computer system is outdated, the Department wouldn't be able to handle additional information effectively, even if it were gathered. The Division needs to complete the upgrade of its computer system and it needs to work toward having more data submitted electronically. The Department has taken steps to implement each of the amendments to the Workers' Compensation Act passed by the 1993 Legislature. However, in three specific areas we reviewed, the Department hasn't effectively implemented those changes. First, the Department's Fraud Unit isn't actively pursuing the allegations of fraud it receives, and it doesn't have the basic information that's needed to effectively manage the Unit or assess what it has accomplished over the years. Second, the Department's Accident Prevention Program isn't actively enforcing the statutory requirement that insurance companies providing workers' compensation coverage maintain accident prevention programs for their clients. And third, the Department hasn't completed a cost study of workers' compensation claims, as the 1993 Legislature required.
Reviewing State and Federal Oversight of Sand Dredging on the Kansas River (100-hour audit)
Neither the Department of Revenue nor the Corps of Engineers takes any steps to ensure that sand-dredging companies are submitting accurate information or making correct sand royalty payments to the State. Both the Department and the Corps rely on self-reported information from sand-dredging companies, believing that companies have little incentive to under-report. Also, the Corps reviews survey data every two years to monitor what, if any, damage that dredging has done to the Kansas River. Although dredging companies' data are not verified by either agency, the companies in our sample appeared to be reporting as accurately as possible. One company was reporting and paying royalties on tons of sand sold, rather than dredged, and company officials indicated that it wasn't aware of the 1996 statute which instead requires companies to report and pay royalties for the number of tons of sand removed from the river. The fiscal impact of this misreporting, however, was minimal.
Compliance and Control Audit: Sentencing Commission