Monday, August 27, 2012
Audit Criticizes AOC Handling of Construction Projects
By a MetNews Staff Writer
The Administration Office of the Courts’ Court Capital Construction Program has been plagued by a lack of focus and accountability, an outside auditing firm said in a report released Friday by the AOC.
Pegasus-Global Holdings, Inc., a Washington state-based firm retained in January, said it had studied the overall direction of the program, as well as six “audit test projects,” including the new San Bernardino courthouse, and had found significant “gaps” that need to be addressed.
Pegasus acknowledged that those gaps arose from circumstances beyond the agency’s control—the relative newness of the program, which was created by the Legislature in 2002; the need to transfer control of court facilities from the counties to the judiciary, which was not completed until December 2009; and the need “to establish, organize and staff” the Office of Courthouse Construction Management as the entity responsible.
The report, which is more than 300 pages long and has been posted on the AOC website at http://www.courts.ca.gov/documents/Pegasus-Global-AOC-OCCM-Final-Audit-Report.pdf, identified several deficiencies, including:
•“From the legislation, it appears that the legislature specifically empowered and required the Judicial Council to perform as the Owner of the Program, and in logical extension, of each project within that Program. However, there is no universally acknowledged agreement or understanding within the Program (at any level) as to the ultimate Owner of the Program. Thus, the actual Owner may not be exercising its responsibility to examine and make crucial funding decisions from a program perspective.”
•“The OCCM is not staffed to the planned levels or for all of the organizational positions identified. The lack of staff since the inception of the Program resulted in the need to prioritize program tasks away from the completion of the Program’s draft policies, procedures and processes, focusing the existing staff on a limited number of what were considered to be more critical elements of the Program;
•“There is no formal delegation of authority and responsibility at either the program or project levels. This has resulted in confusion and some disagreement as to who within the Program and project structure are accountable for the decisions made and actions taken on behalf of the Program and each project.”
Pegasus did say, however, that “[n]o issues were found related to a single point of accountability as every Program and Project Manager without exception held themselves accountable and responsible for all the decisions made and actions taken relative to their functions and project assignments.”
Pegasus said the AOC had, with modifications acceptable to the auditor, accepted its recommendations for a proper organizational structure. The firm said it was “impressed with the speed with which AOC/OCCM has reviewed the full body of the findings and recommendations and moved to address each of those findings and recommendations.”
“The immediate attention directed towards planning and implementing actions intended to improve and strengthen the management and execution of the Program and its constituent projects is highly commendable.”
The Alliance of California Judges, however, was not in a commendable mood. In a statement, the group said it was “not surprised by yet another Friday afternoon document dump that excoriates another expensive mishandled program by the AOC. “
The alliance noted that the AOC paid more than $420,000 for the audit, which it called “an indictment of the Office of Court Construction and Management and the failure of the Judicial Council to lead.,” adding:
“The words in the report such as: ‘lack of transparency’, ‘lack of oversight’, ‘lack of ownership’, lack of a ‘single point of accountability’, no ‘formal document control system expected of a mega program’,and ‘confusion and some disagreement’ as to who is accountable for decision making....are all terms we are familiar with as they were used in profusion by the State Auditor regarding CCMS and the Chief Justice’s hand picked Strategic Evaluation Committee’s review of the AOC.”
The alliance proposed that the Legislature “simply take control of further construction projects from the AOC.”
Copyright 2012, Metropolitan News Company