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New Jersey State Audit Reports DOC Life Skills Program Contractually Noncompliant

By Bob Williams

The New Jersey State Legislature Auditor's Office conducted an investigation into contractual expenditures, policies and provisional compliance of the Department of Correction’s (DOC) Life Skills Academy (LSA) program. The 2006 report reflected the insufficient administration of procedures and records by the DOC which prevented a compliance determination. The acting DOC Commissioner claimed that he did not "possess the ability" to determine the program's effectiveness.

The State Auditor for the New Jersey State Legislature, Office of Legislative Services, audited the LSA for the period of July 1, 2004 through May 20, 2006. The LSA, through the DOC, contracts with the state to train 1250 prisoners annually to improve their lives with managerial skills curriculum which will also prepare them for future parole release. The DOC receives the funding for this "no bid" contract and administers it to the LSA. The audit, authorized pursuant to New Jersey Statute Article VII, 5 1 (6), was implemented to determine the contractual expenditure and terms administration by the DOC because the allotted $1.5 million came from the state's General Fund.

All procedures used to conduct the audit were thorough. Contract terms, state audit guidelines and departmental policies were reviewed. Financial trends, budget considerations and internal program controls were verified through inspection and personnel interviews. One facility's attendance records were selected to determine proper DOC departmental recording practices. Under the contract's provisions, the DOC is required to hire instructors for scheduled visits to various facilities for an eight week period, two hours per day five days per week. After prisoners successfully complete the course they receive a graduation certificate. The payment scheduling provisions require a minimum of 1250 prisoners to graduate every fiscal year. State Auditor Richard Fair concluded that the DOC did not require its various facilities to prepare and submit data concerning attendance prior to paying the LSA ai that only one took attendance. Seven other facilities did not. One facility's average hours totaled only 60 instead of the requisite 80 and listed prisoners as completing the current course who had previously graduated earlier courses. Fair determined that the LSA program's effectiveness was not verifiable and a few DOC managers implied that they could possibly provide such services with resources already available to them.

Fair recommended that the DOC fulfill their critical contractual responsibilities such a verifying independently produced data regarding requisite terms and conditions. It further was urged that the program's effectiveness and reasonable cost be determined as well as whether in house DOC resources could provide the services more efficiently. Acting DOC Commissioner George Hayman stated "To measure the effectiveness of a program is an extremely difficult task and that "our department does not possess the ability to isolate the outcomes and the effectiveness of the Life Skills programs" but thanked the audit staff for "their investigate diligence and cogent recommendations." Source: New Jersey State Legislature State Audit report June 14, 2006.

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