Wednesday, March 9, 2011
Bruiniers Defends Cost-Benefit Analysis Against Auditor’s Criticism
By SHERRI M. OKAMOTO, Staff Writer
First District Court of Appeal Justice Terence L. Bruiniers, chair of the Judicial Council’s California Case Management System Executive Committee, yesterday defended the accuracy and reliability of a cost-benefit analysis on the project against criticism levied against it by the Bureau of State Audits last Thursday.
In a “Dear Colleague letter” obtained by the MetNews, Bruiniers said that Auditor Elaine M. Howle’s findings “may have been a result of misunderstandings by the BSA” of the data or methodology used in the analysis, conducted by the Grant Thornton accounting firm at the request of the Administrative Office of the Courts.
Howle, who could not be reached for comment, had said on Thursday that the Grant Thornton report’s projected return on investment of up to $300 million “excludes and understates certain costs, assumes certain benefits of CCMS that are questionable, and uses a deployment model that includes some unrealistic assumptions.”
No Prior Notice
Her remarks came as a surprise, Bruiniers said in his letter yesterday, since the auditor’s evaluation of Grant Thorton’s report “was done without any prior notice to or inquiry of the branch,” and the justice complained Howle’s findings had been “eagerly disseminated by the most strident CCMS critics well before its existence was even disclosed to us.”
“It is difficult to understand why the BSA would summarily reject a report prepared over the course of several weeks by a recognized international expert in the field recommended by the state Technology Agency,” Bruiniers wrote. He also noted the cost-benefit analysis was one of the recommendations Howle had made in her February 8 audit of CCMS.
California Assembly member Bonnie Lowenthal, D-Long Beach, who had requested the audit, yesterday remarked, “I can’t believe the AOC actually wants to get in a credibility contest with the State Auditor,” after being provided with a copy of Bruiniers’ letter.
The letter also addressed allegations made that AOC reports to Legislature, intentionally or otherwise, misstated or underreported CCMS project costs, with Bruiniers specifically referencing an accusation that the agency engaged in “double bookkeeping.”
A memorandum from AOC Financial Director Stephen Nash to Bruniers on this claim was attached to the email, which asserted “the council has always maintained only one set of books, and has reported this information as required.”
Nash acknowledged that some reports had not contained certain information, but emphasized that the omitted data “was not part of the statutory reporting requirement.” He also said the project’s $1.9 billion price tag had been disclosed to lawmakers in reports as “the sum of totals displayed on three separate pages.”
“While we consider our prior reporting to be appropriate, we will ensure that these costs are added together in future reports,” he said.
Former Los Angeles Superior Court Presiding Judge J. Stephen Czuleger, who had levied the “double books” claim in a letter to Bruiniers last month, commented that “quibbling over what was required or not required does not overcome the basic problem here, and that problem is a total lack of transparency and a complete break-down of credibility of the AOC.”
Copyright 2011, Metropolitan News Company