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L.A. County Audit Recommends More Contract Oversight for Probation Department

The County of Los Angeles, like most governmental agencies, receives funding from a variety of sources and relies on outside contractors to perform many services – including correctional services. L.A. County’s Probation Department was the subject of a July 2015 audit related to its budgeting process for juvenile halls, juvenile camps and overall contracting procedures, which indicated that improvements needed to be made.

Part of Los Angeles County’s budget problems stem from the fact that the county must make up any revenue shortfall if sufficient funds are not available from previously-budgeted revenue sources. According to the audit, “$10.2 million [was] expended from the County General Fund during Fiscal Years 2012-13 and 2013-14” for various programs mandated by the state legislature that the county’s Probation Department was unable to collect from other sources. The audit suggested that the department “determine the feasibility of recovering such expenditures from the County’s Community Corrections Performance Incentives Special Revenue Fund.”

Another area that indicated improvements were required was the tracking of expenditures by various subdivisions within the Probation Department, implying that accurate reporting of expenditures may be deficient.

Additionally, there was a large discrepancy between the cost per juvenile offender held in juvenile halls in Los Angeles County versus in San Diego County and Orange County, California; Harris County, Texas; and Cook County, Illinois. The average cost per juvenile ranged from a low of $232 per day in Harris County to $640 per day in Los Angeles County. Likewise, Los Angeles had the highest average daily cost per juvenile camp detainee at $552 per day, versus three other counties where costs were no higher than $307 per day.

After noting those much higher expenses, the audit recommended that “Probation Department management examine the operating costs of their juvenile halls and camps, and ... identify reasons for their higher Average Daily Cost Per Youth in comparison to other counties.”

The audit concluded that the Probation Department needed to “conduct ongoing monitoring of the community-based organizations [that it] contract[s] with to ensure compliance with the County contracts’ requirements,” and develop “a comprehensive, risk-based contract monitoring plan ... to mitigate contracting risk.”

Sources: Los Angeles Times; “Probation Department – Budget, Juvenile Halls and Camps Operating Costs, and Departmental Contracting Procedures Review,” County of Los Angeles Department of Auditor-Controller (July 24, 2015)

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