New Yorker Repost: Purple Rain

We’ll return to audit-y business as usual next week, but on this particular rainy Friday, let’s take a moment to say goodbye to one of the most astonishingly gifted humans to ever walk the earth: Prince Rogers Nelson.

Shakespeare said it best. “Now cracks a noble heart. Goodnight sweet prince, and may flights of angels sing thee to thy rest.”

CoverStory-Staake-PurpleRain-879x1200-1461274109Purple Rain, by Bob Staacke. Courtesy of the New Yorker

 

“What is that feeling when you’re driving away from people and they recede on the plain till you see their specks dispersing? – it’s the too-huge world vaulting us, and it’s good-bye. But we lean forward to the next crazy venture beneath the skies.”     – Jack Kerouac, On The Road

Noteworthy

GAO RePodcast: Health Care Fraud Schemes

How do you find—and stop—fraudsters among Medicare and Medicaid’s 100 million beneficiaries, countless providers, and more than $1 trillion in annual spending? It helps to know what you’re looking for…

Kathleen King, Director of the GAO Health Team, shares her team’s findings in the GAO podcast. Generally, the majority of cases included more than one health care fraud scheme – some of the cases had five or more schemes. The most common  schemes were related to billing fraud, such as billing for services that had not been provided. Health care providers were involved in the majority of cases.

The GAO also looked at whether or not the use of smart cards could have affected the number of cases. Due to provider complicity in the fraud schemes, however, it was determined that the use of smart cards would not have had a significant effect.

GAOhealthcarefraud

Listen to the podcast below:

Read the report here.

Or, to visit the GAO WatchBlog and listen in, follow this link: Health Care Fraud Schemes (podcast)

 

Accountability and Media Featured Noteworthy

LinkedIn Reblog: How to Deliver a Killer Workplace Presentation that would Rival a Ted Talk

“If you do hold a position where you are front and center and are required to speak to others publicly, then you know how daunting it can be. Even if you aren’t a people manager or leader in the workplace, you may have to stand up at a wedding or network event and speak to an audience. Either way, public speaking is still the number one fear for most people…”

Joshua Miller, the Director of Learning and Talent Development at Paypal, discusses how to tackle one of the working professional’s biggest challenges in this article over at LinkedIn.

 

Photo courtesy of © Adrian Lindley | Dreamstime Stock Photos

Accountability and Media Noteworthy

Office of Economic Analysis Reblog: U.S. EPOP by Single Age

“A lot of focus in recent years has been on the labor force participation rate — the share of adults either with a job or looking for one — and with good reason… that being said, aging and shifting demographics have a massive impact on the LFPR. As such, it is also important to look the share of individuals that actually have a job. At the end of the day what matters, and what feels good for people is money in their pocket or bank account.”

How has the labor force participation rate (LFPR) changed in the U.S. since the year 2000, and what might that mean for both younger and older generations of workers? Read more here.

Source: U.S. EPOP by Single Age

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Oregon Employment Department: Computer Programs for Unemployment Tax Returns and Claims Need Attention

Executive Summary


Oregon Employment Department computer programs correctly process most individual unemployment insurance claims and associated employer tax returns, but these outdated computer programs should be replaced. Additional work is also needed to improve security, processes for changing computer code, and disaster recovery capability.

Computer programs correctly handle most unemployment benefit claims and tax statements, but should be replaced

oed_post_pulloutOregon Employment Department (Employment) computer systems handle routine unemployment claims accurately. Systems also process most employer quarterly unemployment tax returns appropriately. However, due to system limitations, Employment staff must identify and manually correct some unemployment claim errors. In addition, some unemployment tax returns bypass automated routines that provide needed scrutiny to detect and correct errors.

These computer programs are inflexible, poorly documented, and difficult to maintain. Considering these factors, Employment should take steps to replace them with more robust and maintainable computer code.

Computer security problems increase risk that data could be compromised

Coordinated use of multiple security components is necessary to protect the integrity of computer systems and their data. Although Employment management and the state’s data center have done much to protect Employment’s computer systems, improvements are needed.

Areas of most concern include ensuring users have the appropriate level of access to computer programs, monitoring actions of users having the most powerful access to systems, and addressing state data center security weaknesses we identified in previous audits.

Processes to better control changes to computer code are needed

Our 2003 and 2012 audits noted problems managing programming changes to these systems. These conditions remain largely unchanged, and increase the risk that programmers could introduce unauthorized or untested changes to the system.

Although these weaknesses are long-standing, Employment managers and staff recently began work to resolve them. They currently have a project to acquire a software solution that could significantly enhance their ability to address many of the identified problems.

Disaster recovery capability is greatly improved, but Employment should ensure plans and processes are complete

Responsibility for recovering the use of computer systems in the event of a disaster is shared with the state data center where these computer systems are hosted. In 2014, the data center entered into an agreement with the state of Montana to place copies of Oregon’s computer systems and data inside Montana’s data center.

This innovative approach to disaster recovery significantly improves Employment’s ability to resume operations in the event of a disaster but additional work is needed to ensure these systems and data are secure and can be made fully operational when needed.

Recommendations

We recommend that management take steps to improve processes for detecting and correcting unemployment tax return errors, improve system documentation, resolve security weaknesses, and fully develop and test disaster recovery procedures.

Agency Response

The agency’s response to the report is included at the end of the audit report.

 

Photo courtesy of © Dana Rothstein | Dreamstime Stock Photos

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Happy Holidays from OAD!

From all of us at OAD- Happy Holidays and Awesome Auditing!

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Once an auditor, always an auditor. Even over the holidays…

To really kick off the winter festivities with a bang, you can read more about Oregon’s legal holidays (ORS 187.010) here.

When you’re done regaling family and friends with all you now know about Oregon’s legal holidays, be sure to key them in to big findings in a few of our recently released audits. Fun for the whole family!

We’ll see you all again in 2016!

 

Cookie picture courtesy of © Ursula Graham | Dreamstime Stock Photos

Noteworthy

Gary Blackmer bids auditing farewell

Join us as we bid adieu to one of our own. Gary Blackmer, outgoing Director of the Oregon Audits Division, has been in the field for over 30 years. On December 31st he will leave auditing behind to pursue his true calling: terrorizing fish populations across the Northwest (and beyond). We sat down with him to gather a few nuggets of wisdom, trick him into sharing the location of his favorite secret fishing hole, and gently prod him to stop by and say hi once in a while.

Speaking of fishing spots, where is your favorite spot?

You think I’m gonna tell you that? No way! You’ll have to find me out there. I’ll give you a hint, though. There’s water, trees, and fish.
But really, fishing is also an excuse to travel around and see beautiful Oregon.

What led you to auditing, and why did you stay?

Auditing at Multnomah County

Auditing at Multnomah County

I’ve always enjoyed analysis. Years ago I worked in the Multnomah County Sheriff’s Department in planning and research, and we were audited by the Multnomah County Auditor. They were asking the kinds of questions that I myself asked and was interested in learning the answers to. I realized that I could be an analyst in many fields other than law enforcement. That realization, and pursuing auditing later, opened many doors.

New auditors entering the field might hear a little about your approach to auditing, otherwise called ‘auditing by the Code of the Samurai.’ What does that mean to you?

The best won battle happens without shedding blood. We have power as auditors, but need to use it carefully. Some of the elements of the Code are veracity and integrity- these come naturally to us, and are essentially written into our standards.
You know, Davy Crockett also said, “Make sure you’re right, then go ahead.” So you could follow the Code, or you could follow Davy Crockett.

After 30 years, you’ve worked on many, many audits. Can you tell us about a few that are particularly memorable, or have had lasting impacts?

I’ve seen both. Going sideways here for a second; few understand how difficult and successful audits are and can be, apart from auditors. Most people, even in the agencies we work with, don’t really understand the challenges going in to an audit or what exactly it is we do. Agencies are often tense and uncertain about us the first time we go through an audit with them. As the relationship builds, over time they usually learn to trust our input and judgment and become much more welcoming.

NSAA Award Winner

NSAA Award Winner

One of the first audits I worked on in the City of Portland Audits office in the late 80’s was an audit of the Portland Police Bureau. That audit established our office as a force to be reckoned with, and had lasting impacts on the agency. Another audit that comes to mind, when I worked with Multnomah County, focused on foster care. That one had a big impact as well. Here at OAD, the TANF audit we released a few years back helped frame the issue for legislators and program heads, which helped them plan out a future direction for TANF in Oregon.

Any big plans for 2016?

I’ll have to figure out how to taper out of auditing. That’ll be my biggest challenge in the coming year. I also foresee some travel, some fishing, time with friends, some home improvement… I have a list of home improvement projects already, though I’ve been told by my wife that there is another whole list out there… Making sure we don’t get water in the basement will be a priority. I have this spread that goes directly onto the concrete that is supposed to help with leaks- it has the same texture as feta cheese. It should only take about a day to do. I might put it off for a while…

How scared are the fish?

Gary, fishing... © Carol Afshar | Dreamstime Stock Photos

Gary waits for a lunker…

Not that frightened! I haven’t had good luck lately when it comes to fishing. Either they’re getting smarter, or I’m getting worse. I am looking forward to improving my luck with some weekday fishing, though. There are a few spots I’d like to return to out in Eastern Oregon- the Imnaha river, North Powder river, the Owyhee… I may venture out to Montana and the state of Washington as well. Maybe even British Columbia!

Perhaps the fish should be afraid.

Perhaps.

Any final thoughts or words of advice for those of us still in the trenches?

I have huge confidence in everybody to continue the work we’ve been doing. There is a huge need for what we do. We produce good recommendations, and should stay the course.

Something OAD might consider for the future would be more open and effective communication about what we do, especially to the Legislature. People are surprised when they hear that we get 75-80% compliance on most of our audit recommendations- they often assume it is much lower than that, but agencies usually act on what we recommend.

We could design an instructional approach to educating people about what it is we do, both inside and outside of the office. This could help newer auditors learn to more quickly recognize and develop potential auditable topics. It could also improve the quality of the requests that we get from the Legislature. Not everything can be solved with an audit. Legislators already go through some training to familiarize themselves with the legislative process- if we were able to let JLAC and the legislators know more about what we can and cannot do, and what our follow-up practices are, we could see some improvement in how we work with the Legislature.

Final comments?

This is a fascinating profession. It calls on all of your skills- personal, analytical, writing, etc- to succeed at it, and it can be very, very satisfying. It’s been a great run.

Want to wish Gary farewell in person, but don’t work in the OAD office? You’re in luck! The Audits Staff Fund will be hosting an open house fare-thee-well on Tuesday, December 22nd. We’ll be celebrating Gary’s career and mourning his departure from 2:30-4pm in Basement A of the Public Service Building, 255 Capitol St. NE, Salem, OR.

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Bird photo courtesy of © Carol Afshar | Dreamstime Stock Photos

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