Auditor of State Mary Taylor today released the Ohio Rehabilitation Services Commission (ORSC) performance audit. The audit examines the agency’s organizational strategy, organizational structure, financial management, technology and support systems, and vocational rehabilitation and disability determination programs.
“The recommendations made by the audit should help the commission improve the efficiency and effectiveness of its operations and the services they provide to people with disabilities statewide,” Taylor said.
In addition to recommendations for improving management practices and customer service levels, the audit notes that ORSC should be commended for several practices that are currently in place.
ORSC has increased the overall number of individuals served by the agency and the number of cases successfully closed. The agency should also be recognized for its efforts to save taxpayer dollars and reduce fraud through the Cooperative Disability Investigation Unit. The unit is extremely effective and is a program unique to Ohio.
In addition, the agency is reducing costs and increasing efficiency through the use of technology. For example, ORSC regularly uses video conferencing to eliminate the need for costly travel and is in the process of improving its electronic storage of case records. The agency also encourages professional growth through the Leadership Development Program. This initiative helps replace retiring employees by identifying management and growth opportunities for staff members.
The performance audit identifies several opportunities for ORSC to improve operations and suggests potential options for restructuring. Proposed changes include strengthening the oversight of the existing commission, elevating the agency to a cabinet-level designation or merging with an existing cabinet-level agency. The audit also states that agency finances are limited and a cost benefit analysis of restructuring would be beneficial.
The following recommendations are highlights from the audit report.
• ORSC should promote organizational transparency by developing performance measures and reporting outputs and outcomes for all agency functions.
• ORSC should expand its strategic plan to include recommended elements and clearly link budgeted funds to specific agency goals.
• The Commission should regularly evaluate goal achievement and effectiveness in providing direction for the agency.
• ORSC should reorganize its internal structure by grouping like functions or supporting functions together. This will help improve efficient work flow processes and create better alignment within the organization.
• ORSC should improve internal controls over several financial areas by creating an audit committee and an internal audit function.
• Additional formal policies and procedures, as well as efforts to address weaknesses identified in its financial audits, will also help improve internal controls and reduce the risk of fraud, waste and abuse of taxpayer funds.
TECHNOLOGY AND SUPPORT SYSTEMS
• ORSC should continue working with OBM to produce electronic fund transfers (EFT) for its providers and vendors through OAKS. Though the two agencies have made strides in resolving ETF issues, additional steps may be needed to eliminate the use of paper checks and remittances by ORSC.
• ORSC should ensure that all vocational rehabilitation staff consistently follow the agency’s criteria for eligibility through improved policies and procedures, additional training, and more regular case record reviews.
• ORSC should include eligible consumers who are categorized as having a non-significant disability on its Order of Selection Holding List. Until ORSC is able to provide services to this population, these individuals should receive appropriate counseling and referral services from ORSC.
• ORSC should implement a call center to handle all incoming calls. The agency implemented this recommendation during the audit.
• As it becomes more accustomed to its automated case management system, ORSC should ensure that adjudicators meet target productivity levels.
The biennial budget bill, passed by the Ohio legislature in July 2007, charged the Auditor of State to complete the ORSC audit. The audit was conducted between October 2007 and April 2008. Data was collected from ORSC, several state agencies, 21 stakeholder groups and 13 organizations. Auditors also contacted other state rehabilitation and disability determination agencies, as well as the appropriate federal oversight agencies, to obtain information to help benchmark ORSC to other organizations of the same industry type and obtain feedback on the agency’s operations.
A performance audit reports on the efficiency and effectiveness of government agency or program operations. This is achieved through comparing and benchmarking similarly situated agencies to the agency under audit. A performance audit can be used to improve operations, save taxpayer dollars and make better use of existing resources.
A full copy of the report is available online at http://www.auditor.state.oh.us/AuditSearch/Reports/2008/Ohio_Rehabilitation_Service_Commission_08_Performance-Franklin.pdf