Audits in the News: ODOT could do more to scrutinize construction costs

Audits in the News: ODOT could do more to scrutinize construction costs

We here in the audits division are proud that the work we do makes a difference. Our work attracts the attention of the legislature, statewide news sources, and even local media outlets. Local media coverage of our audits is just another way we communicate with the people of Oregon about the work that we’re doing on their behalf to make government better. This is part of an ongoing series of posts rounding up recent instances in which the Oregon Audits Division makes a cameo in the local news.

This was the first performance audit released since Secretary Dennis Richardson assumed the office of Oregon’s Secretary of State. The audit team examined the Oregon Department of Transportation and the agency’s efforts to monitor bidding, costs and other changes in construction projects.

You can read the entire audit here.


The Oregonian/OregonLive – ODOT loses money on contractors gaming the system, auditors say, but agency questions accuracy

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“The Oregon Department of Transportation could save money if it cracked down on bidding practices contractors can use to rig low bids to produce higher payouts, according to an audit released Monday by the Secretary of State’s Office.”


The Statesman Journal – Contractors could be gaming ODOT contracts, state audit finds

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“The Oregon Department of Transportation could save a significant amount of money by monitoring construction project changes, a state audit released Monday found. ODOT doesn’t track so-called “unbalanced bid items” on about $400 million per year spent on highway, bridge and other construction projects, the Secretary of State Audits Division said.”


The Portland Tribune – New audit of ODOT contracting system finds same old flaws

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“A decade ago, state investigators found that Oregon Department of Transportation contracting had become a cynical sport for one highway construction company — the executives there submitting low bids, then wagering over ways they could subsequently increase project costs to boost profits. While that case is old history, a new state audit of ODOT suggests that its contracting system remains vulnerable despite a decade of warnings from the department’s own employees of contractor gamesmanship and fraud.”

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Audits in the News: Economic development and water resources

Audits in the News: Economic development and water resources

We here in the audits division are proud that the work we do makes a difference. Our work attracts the attention of the legislature, statewide news sources, and even local media outlets. Local media coverage of our audits is just another way we communicate with the people of Oregon about the work that we’re doing on their behalf to make government better. This is part of an ongoing series of posts rounding up recent instances in which the Oregon Audits Division makes a cameo in the local news.

The work of the Oregon Audits Division continues to be highlighted in the media, with reporters helping to explain and clarify audit findings of complex government topics. This time around, one audit team examined Business Oregon, the state’s primary economic development agency, and identified ways the agency could improve the evaluation and transparency of various incentives and loan programs. Another team pointed out how the Oregon Water Resources Department could benefit from long-term planning, an enhanced focus on groundwater protection, and better data collection and analysis.

You can read the entire Business Oregon audit here and the Oregon Water Resources Department audit here.


Willamette Week – New Audit Finds State’s Economic Development Agency Gives Lots of Goodies But Fails to Measure Results

Read the story here.

“Oregon Secretary of State Jeanne Atkins today released her audits division’s look at Business Oregon, the state’s economic development agency. Business Oregon seeks to recruit and retain businesses and help existing operations grow through a variety of grants, loans and tax breaks. The agency will hand out $680 million in the 2015-17 budget cycle, with the biggest chunk of that going to property tax breaks for Intel’s research and manufacturing facilities in Washington County.”


Oregon Public Broadcasting (OPB) – Audit: More Transparency Needed For Oregon’s Economic Incentives

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“Oregon’s agency devoted to economic development should provide more transparency about how its incentives are being used. That’s one of the findings of an audit of Business Oregon released Monday by the Oregon Secretary of State’s office.”


The Register-Guard – Audit highlights problems with Oregon’s tax and cash incentive programs for businesses

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“Oregon should work to ensure better return on investment and transparency in the $340 million a year in tax breaks and cash incentives it provides to businesses, a new audit from the Secretary of State’s office concludes. The audit, released Monday, examines Business Oregon, the state’s economic development agency, and the incentives it provides directly to private companies. Those sweeteners — including forgivable and low-interest loans, tax credits, and direct cash assistance — total $72.5 million a year.”


Oregon Public Broadcasting (OPB) – Audit Finds Problems At Oregon’s Water Resources Department

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“The agency in charge of managing Oregon’s water resources is being stretched to the limit. That’s one of the findings in a new audit from the Oregon Secretary of State’s office.”


The Bend Bulletin – State audit: Focus more on sustaining water

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“The Oregon Water Resources Department could better balance water rights with actions to restore streamflows, according to a new state audit. The agency also lacks the resources and strategic planning needed to guard against over-use and contamination of existing water supplies, the Oregon Secretary of State’s Office said. The office’s audit, released Thursday, called for the department to focus more on protecting groundwater, collecting data and planning long-term to prioritize efforts and resources.”


Portland Tribune – Audit faults water resources dept. data collection, analysis

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“An audit released Thursday by the Secretary of State’s Office calls on the state’s Water Resources Department to improve its long-term planning and management of Oregon’s water supply. The department is responsible for allocating water rights, enforcing the state’s water laws and other aspects of water management. It’s overseen by a citizen commission.”

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Audits in the News: Food Safety, Cybersecurity, and affordable housing

Audits in the News: Food Safety, Cybersecurity, and affordable housing

We here in the audits division are proud that the work we do makes a difference. Our work attracts the attention of the legislature, statewide news sources, and even local media outlets. Local media coverage of our audits is just another way we communicate with the people of Oregon about the work that we’re doing on their behalf to make government better. This is part of an ongoing series of posts rounding up recent instances in which the Oregon Audits Division makes a cameo in the local news.

Three of our more recent audits made a big impact on important issues in Oregonians’ lives. Accordingly, they made a lot of headlines! One audit team looked at the backlog in food safety inspections the Oregon Department of Agriculture struggled to address. Another found multiple agencies with significant cybersecurity lapses that could put the state’s sensitive information at risk. Another team examined the shortcomings of Oregon’s affordable housing supply as overseen by the Oregon Housing and Community Services agency.

You can read the entire Department of Agriculture audit here; the IT cybersecurity audit here; and the Oregon Housing and Community Services audit here.


Oregon Public Broadcasting (OPB) – Oregon Falls Behind In Food Safety Inspections

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“The state of Oregon is running behind schedule when it comes to conducting food safety inspections. That’s the conclusion of an audit released Tuesday by the Oregon Secretary of State’s office. The Oregon Department of Agriculture is in charge of inspecting food manufacturers and grocery stores. There are more than 12,000 of those businesses in Oregon.”


The Oregonian/OregonLive – Oregon has large backlog of food safety inspections, audit finds

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“Nearly a quarter of the food businesses in Oregon from groceries to dairies are overdue for safety inspections, according to an audit from the Secretary of State’s office. The 2,841 companies are at least three months’ past due, the audit said.”


The Statesman Journal – Oregon food safety inspections lagging, inconsistent

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“Oregon’s Food Safety Program is significantly behind on inspections, which could put public safety and the agriculture industry at risk, a state audit released Tuesday concludes. Nearly one-quarter of inspections are at least three months past due, the report from the Oregon Secretary of State Audits Division said. Inspection procedures and penalties are inconsistent. And there is no system to ensure food operators are licensed.”


The Bend Bulletin – Oregon ag department faces backlog of food-safety inspections

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“When Oregon food safety inspector Jon Harrang showed up at Sparrow Bakery on Scott Street in Bend on Nov. 29, he was more than two years late to conduct a routine inspection, according to an Oregon Department of Agriculture database. Harrang cited the wholesale bakery, which also has a deli counter, for handling food with bare hands and failing to keep items in the refrigerated display case below 41 degrees F. Co-owner Jessica Keating said those problems were corrected as soon as possible, and she actually wishes the state inspector would visit more often.”


Oregon Public Broadcasting (OPB) – Audit: Oregon State Government Has Significant Lapses in Cybersecurity

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“An audit released Wednesday shows significant cyber security lapses in Oregon government agencies. The audit conducted by the Secretary of State’s Office reviewed 13 of the state’s 300 agencies and boards. It found some agencies don’t even have a digital security plan. Those that do are underfunded, understaffed or use outdated software.”


The Oregonian/OregonLive – Audit: Oregon’s cyber security shortfalls leave state data vulnerable to hackers

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“Cyber security weaknesses at state agencies are putting Oregonians’ sensitive data at risk, according to a new audit released on Wednesday. Adding to the problem, auditors found that state information technology officials were unprepared to shoulder responsibility for fixing the agencies’ issues, something Gov. Kate Brown directed them to do in September.”


The Portland Tribune – Audit: Agencies still face IT security vulnerabilities

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“Longstanding information technology security weaknesses continue at several state government agencies, according to a state audit released Wednesday. The Secretary of State’s Office, after spending a year auditing 13 state agencies for information technology security, warned in a report that the failure of the state to implement changes increased the risk of a ‘security incident.'”


The Associated Press – Oregon state agencies have weak IT security, audit finds

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“Oregon’s chief auditing agency sharply criticized inadequate security of state agencies’ computer programs and data, saying Wednesday that the governor, Legislature and others must create and fund a statewide security plan. The audit by Secretary of State Jeanne Atkins’ office said the weaknesses increase the risk of a cyberattack and put individuals’ private information at risk, including income tax data, Social Security numbers, driver’s license information and medical records.”


The Oregonian/OregonLive – Audit: Oregon’s administrative failures put affordable housing supply at risk

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“Oregon’s failure to track and plan for affordable housing has put the state at risk of losing existing units in the midst of a housing crisis, according to a new audit released on Tuesday. Auditors from the Secretary of State’s office found that poor data tracking, a lack of strategic planning and communication problems at Oregon Housing and Community Services undermined the housing finance agency’s ability to preserve existing units and add new ones.”


The Portland Tribune – Audit: Shortcomings at OHCS put state housing inventory at risk

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“Oregon Housing and Community Services has failed to provide adequate leadership in addressing the state’s housing crisis, according to an audit released Tuesday, Dec. 6, by the Secretary of State’s Office. OHCS’s role is to preserve affordable housing by administering a $26 million IRS tax credit program that provides one of the largest sources of funding for affordable housing in the state. The agency also provides loans and grants to private and nonprofit housing developers who can use the money to maintain affordable housing.”


The Bend Bulletin – Audit finds issues with state housing agency

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“Amid a housing shortfall that political leaders say is a priority to address, Oregon’s lead state agency on affordable housing is falling short on its responsibility to help guide policymaking to reduce homelessness and keep residents in homes. That’s according to Secretary of State Jeanne Atkins’ office, which released an audit Tuesday that described problems with Oregon Housing and Community Services, which handles state and federal subsidies and is the go-to agency for housing policy.”


Oregon Public Broadcasting (OPB) – Audit: Oregon Agency Putting Affordable Housing At Risk

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“An audit released Tuesday finds communication problems and a lack of data at the Oregon Housing and Community Services agency are putting affordable rentals at risk. The state’s housing agency is charged with maintaining and increasing affordable housing in Oregon. It’s also responsible for developing the state’s strategic housing plan.”


The Portland Tribune – State agency won’t have key data for housing policy this session

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“The state housing agency won’t finish a statewide affordable housing inventory before the end of the 160-day legislative session during which lawmakers could consider millions of dollars in funding for affordable housing. The inventory is intended to give agencies, lawmakers and nonprofit housing investors an accurate picture of what affordable housing exists and what federally backed projects are at risk of losing affordability because of expiring contracts with property owners.”

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Audits in the News: December

Audits in the News: End-of-year audits at DOGAMI, DHS earn media coverage

We here in the audits division are proud that the work we do makes a difference. Our work attracts the attention of the legislature, statewide news sources, and even local media outlets. Local media coverage of our audits is just another way we communicate with the people of Oregon about the work that we’re doing on their behalf to make government better. This is part of an ongoing series of posts rounding up recent instances in which the Oregon Audits Division makes a cameo in the local news.

As the year winds to a close, the Audits Division has been busy wrapping up and releasing several performance audits. We’ll cover some of the resulting news coverage in the new year. But two recently released audits — one focusing on employees’ concerns at the Department of Human Services, the other on federal funding management at the Department of Geology and Mineral Services — have received their fair share of media coverage.

You can read the entire DHS audit here, and the entire DOGAMI audit here.


The Oregonian/OregonLive – Survey: state human services employees lack resources, feel stressed and underpaid

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“Employees at the Oregon Department of Human Services lack the resources necessary to do their jobs and feel overworked, underpaid and stressed out, according to survey results released by state auditors on Wednesday.”


KTVZ – Audit: DHS workers feel overworked, stressed, underpaid

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“Workers at the Oregon Department of Human Services are largely proud of the work the agency does, but significant numbers of workers feel overworked, stressed, underpaid and under-supported in their jobs, according to an audit released Wednesday by the Secretary of State’s office.”


OPB –Oregon DHS Workers Are Stressed Out, But Proud Of Their Work

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“Working for Oregon’s Department of Human Services is stressful. That’s one of the findings of an agency-wide survey released Wednesday by the Oregon Secretary of State’s office. DHS runs programs that serve people with disabilities, senior citizens, low-income families and children in foster care.”


Portland Tribune – Audit: Some ‘problem spots’ remain at DOGAMI

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“Since its financial woes came under scrutiny in early 2015, the state’s geology department has improved its financial controls, according to a state audit report released Wednesday. But the Secretary of State’s Office recommended the Department of Geology and Mineral Industries, often referred to as DOGAMI, continue to update how it reports and records federal money.”


OPB – Audit: Oregon Agency Engaged In ‘Inappropriate Grant Management’

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“A new state audit says the Oregon agency that monitors natural hazards has engaged in some questionable fiscal practices. The report says the Oregon Department of Geology and Mineral Industries is also taking steps to correct the problem.”

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Audits in the News: November

Audits in the News: Smarter Balanced audit renews media interest in education test

We here in the audits division are proud that the work we do makes a difference. Our work attracts the attention of the legislature, statewide news sources, and even local media outlets. Local media coverage of our audits is just another way we communicate with the people of Oregon about the work that we’re doing on their behalf to make government better. This is part of an ongoing series of posts rounding up recent instances in which the Oregon Audits Division makes a cameo in the local news.

The Audits Division recently released an audit in response to House Bill 2713, passed during the 2015 legislative session. The audit looked at the impacts of the Smarter Balanced assessment and identified some possible ways to improve upon the test.

You can read the entire audit online here.


Statesman Journal – Concerns about Smarter Balanced continue in new audit

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“State auditors said Smarter Balanced student assessments are confusing and unpopular, according to a new audit report. Though these concerns have come up in the past, the audit team now suggests a handful of things to improve the current system.”


The Portland Tribune – Audit: Oregon needs to get more out of expensive Smarter Balanced tests

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“Statewide school tests through the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium are nearly twice as expensive as the old tests, confusing to educators and time-consuming. That’s according to a new audit from the Oregon Secretary of State released today. The office of Jeanne Atkins conducted the audit in accordance with a bill passed by the 2015 legislature and sponsored by Portland-area Representatives Lew Frederick and Shemia Fagan.”


OPB – Oregon Audit: Smarter Balanced Exams Take Up Scarce Time, Resources

Read and listen to the story here.

“An Oregon audit of the state’s Smarter Balanced standardized exams found that the tests aren’t well understood, and that they take up scarce time and resources in schools. The legislature called for the audit of the Smarter Balanced exam – as teachers raised questions and many parents withdrew their kids from taking it. Secretary of State Jeanne Atkins said state officials value the exams, often more than teachers and parents do.”


East Oregonian – Our view: State audits Smarter Balanced (Editorial)

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“The Oregon Department of Education should do more to address the concerns of educators and parents about Smarter Balanced testing and Common Core state standards. At least that’s what the Oregon Secretary of State argued Wednesday in releasing the results of a mandated state audit.

Jeanne Atkins reported there were problems with the test rollout and results, and ODE has not done a good enough job communicating the need for the test. And, Atkins said, it needs to better administer Smarter Balanced and address legitimate concerns about standardized testing in general.”

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Audits in the News: October

Audits in the News: After news coverage of wildfires, a timely audit grabs media attention.

We here in the audits division are proud that the work we do makes a difference. Our work attracts the attention of the legislature, statewide news sources, and even local media outlets. Local media coverage of our audits is just another way we communicate with the people of Oregon about the work that we’re doing on their behalf to make government better. This is part of an ongoing series of posts rounding up recent instances in which the Oregon Audits Division makes a cameo in the local news.

The Audits Division recently released its performance audit of the Oregon Department of Forestry. According to the audit, three severe fire seasons have forced the agency to spend more time fighting fires and less on its other programs, in addition to putting a strain on agency staff. It outlined some strategies ODF could take to ease the burden of wildfires on the agency as a whole.

You can read the entire audit online here.


The Oregonian – Audit finds Oregon Department of Forestry struggling after years of large wildfire seasons

Read the story here.

“Oregon’s Department of Forestry has been stretched too thin – both in its budget and staffing – over the past three severe fire seasons, according to an audit released Tuesday by the Secretary of State’s Office.”


Statesman Journal – Forestry department struggles with wildfire planning

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“Intense wildfire seasons over the past three years have taken a toll on the Oregon Department of Forestry, a state audit released Tuesday concludes. Employees feel overworked, non-fire programs are suffering, and paperwork delays have cost taxpayers at least $1.5 million, auditors found.”


KNKX 88.5 FM – Audit: Large Wildfire Seasons Take Toll On Oregon’s Forestry Department

Read (and listen to) the story here.

“A series of intense wildfire seasons has taken a toll on the Oregon Department of Forestry. That’s according to an audit released Tuesday by the Oregon Secretary of State’s office. Three consecutive summers of severe wildfires have stretched the resources of the state’s agency dedicated to forest management. The audit found that fighting those fires has caused stress and fatigue for agency employees who spend an increasing amount of time away from home.”


KTVZ Bend – Audit: Oregon Dept. of Forestry strained by more, larger wildfires

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“With Oregon’s wildfire season at its peak, the Secretary of State’s Office released an audit Tuesday showing that the increasing number and severity of wildfires in recent years is taxing the agency’s other critical missions and programs.”

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Audits in the News: September

Audits in the News: A third-party audit, commissioned by the Audits Division, gets some attention.

We here in the audits division are proud that the work we do makes a difference. Our work attracts the attention of the legislature, statewide news sources, and even local media outlets. Local media coverage of our audits is just another way we communicate with the people of Oregon about the work that we’re doing on their behalf to make government better. This is part of an ongoing series of posts rounding up recent instances in which the Oregon Audits Division makes a cameo in the local news.

The Secretary of State and the Oregon Audits Division commissioned a third-party audit of Oregon’s Business Energy Tax Credit, known as BETC. The credit, administered by the Department of Energy, had been the subject of a number of news articles in the past few months.

Earlier this month, the results of that investigation were released, also to some media coverage. You can read the Secretary’s letter, explaining the purpose for the audit and its findings, here.

Also be sure to read the full report here.

The Oregonian – Audit finds ‘suspicious behavior’ in dozens of energy projects that got Oregon tax credits

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“More than a quarter of the large business energy tax credits issued by the Oregon Department of Energy over eight years ‘seemed improper, violated statutes or rules, or exhibited suspicious activity,’ a first-ever independent audit of the controversial program found.”

Statesman Journal – Audit finds problems with some Oregon energy tax credits

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“An independent investigation of Oregon’s Business Energy Tax Credit (BETC) program found ‘concerning’ risk factors in more than one-third of the $1 billion in credits issued since 2007.

The Portland Tribune –Audit: ‘Suspicious behavior’ on energy credits forwarded to DOJ

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“Finding no direct evidence of fraud, Oregon Secretary of State Jeanne Atkins nevertheless has forwarded ‘circumstantial evidence of suspicious behavior’ in 79 projects that received business energy tax credits to the Oregon Department of Justice.”

Oregon Public Broadcasting –Audit: Shuttered Oregon Tax Credit Program Issued Money for Suspicious Projects

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“More than a third of the credits issued under a tax credit program for renewable energy companies in Oregon went to problematic projects.

That’s according to an independent analysis issued Thursday by the Oregon Secretary of State’s office.

The report was prepared by a Portland-based consulting firm that specializes in financial crimes. It was paid for by the Secretary of State’s office.”

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