Best Practices Committee
September 20, 2006
Judge Spector called the meeting to order. Judge Spector recently attended a conference in Alexandria, VA on performance measures; she said the conference validated a lot of the work we are doing and was attended by judges and administrators from all levels of courts. Part of the keynote speaker’s address reminded the attendees that if performance measures are done and done well, it will help preserve the independence of the judiciary – keeping politics out of the judiciary.
Judge Spector continued that Judge Kevin Burke (District Court, Hennepin County, Minnesota) was an excellent speaker and is a person we should utilize in our efforts. She continued that Lubbock, TX and Maricopa County, AZ have good websites that committee members might want to visit.
Lubbock Co., TX: http://www.co.lubbock.tx.us/DCrt/PDF/measurement_Report.pdf
Maricopa doesn’t currently publish performance standards on their court website. However, the county as a whole has done some work to develop county-wide performance measures that are reported to the public; that information can be found at:
Maricopa Co., AZ: http://www.maricopa.gov/mfr
Judge Spector asked if there were any changes to the August 3 minutes; there were none. The minutes were accepted as written.
Pilot Phase 2 - the committee discussed the Base Measure Test and Approval Progress. The timeline for Phase 2 is based on one staff person and work done at committee meetings. Using this schedule, completion is estimated for 2011.
The Supreme Court has agreed to move forward with the budget request for staff funding for this project. Should the request be successful, the completion date is expected to be moved up.
There was a question at the last meeting regarding the way “condition” was used. Staff explained that “condition” is a generally accepted GAGAS term, which means finding.
The committee discussed the 11 Evaluation Questions and offered their assessment.
Questions 1 & 2. The committee agreed with the staff assessment – especially Question 2 which lends legitimacy to our efforts.
Question 3. It is meaningful for the public to know that public funds are handled responsibly and that the financial practices in court are in line with requirements of court rule and state statute. This is less meaningful for the courts because this has already been done by the state – no new information is provided.
The State does look at how federal grant money is handled but not private foundation money. We would be checking to see that the court is responsive and responsible, not whether accounting practices are good or bad.
This is of broad importance for the BJA performance audit goals – across rural, urban, and all sizes of courts.
Question 4. The performance audit period is set at five years; we would look at the State Auditor’s Office (SAO) reports within that five year period.
The SAO only looks at what is addressed in statute. These include budget, staffing levels, expenditures, court money brought in, internal controls, cash handling, JIS audit reports, types of tickets filed and checking with law enforcement, if federal grant money was spent correctly, and the segregation of payroll duties. An audit is required at least every three years – the SAO may do small pieces each year or every other year. For the appellate courts, it is every four years.
The performance audits will not be looking at how well courts performed on the audit(s), but how they have responded to the audits. This will also include internal audits (i.e., local government or private grants). We’re not concerned whether they passed the audit or have good practices; we’re concerned that they were responsible to whatever recommendations they received.
Staff will clarify that the performance audits will look at a court’s responsiveness to all available financial audits within the five-year span, including internal and independent audits. Note that this will also impact the methodology section.
Question 5. These terms are from GAGAS. Assessment of internal and independent audits should be added. Because there is a huge amount of variability in these audits, we won’t be able to use a standard methodology. The performance auditor will be directed to conform to the methodology used for state audits as closely as possible.
Questions 6 & 7. Other steps to ensure objectivity and reliability may be added to the standard methodology. The performance auditor might have to interview audit staff, look back in documents, or go into the court offices to observe.
Questions 8 & 9. These questions should be combined. See table below for original risk and protective factors.
The risk and protective factors are being changed as follows:
Question 10. The committee agreed to the following approach for now: Meets Standard or Does not Meet Standard.
Question 11. The committee agreed that a performance auditor may give recommendations, as deemed appropriate, when a court meets the standard.
A conference call has been set for October 23 at noon to do the phase 1 assessment of the attorney survey.
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