Water Board Can't Add

Katy Grimes: The State Water Resources Control Board, the agency responsible for ensuring “the highest reasonable quality for waters of the State,” appears to have a very difficult time with basic counting.

The State Auditor issued a report updating the American Recover and Reinvestment Act (ARRA “stimulus” program), which was created for the purpose of “preserving and creating jobs” and “promoting economic recovery.” The state Auditor found some disturbing, but not altogether unexpected behavior, inside several California agencies:

  • “Of the five state agencies we reviewed that reported recipient-level jobs data, two did not follow federal or state guidance resulting in overstatements of full-time equivalent positions totaling 617.
  • Only one of the agencies we reviewed followed the task force’s recommendation to review subrecipients’ calculation methodologies and none reviewed supporting documentation to verify the accuracy of the jobs data.
  • Two federal audit agencies and one state audit agency that have reviewed California’s administration of jobs data reporting under the Recovery Act have reported errors or concerns in subrecipient data reporting.”

The  executive summary from the Auditor explains in more detail: “For example, the Water Resources Control Board (Water Board) reported triple the actual number of jobs created and retained by calculating them on a monthly basis and then totaling the three months’ data, instead of performing the calculation once at the end of the quarter, as required by the OMB and task force guidance.

This error resulted in an overstatement of 71 full-time equivalent positions (FTEs). In addition, the Water Board calculated its jobs data using incorrect months. Specifically, OMB requires that the reporting quarter ending June 30, 2010, is to include jobs data for April through June 2010; however, the Water Board reported data for the months of March through May 2010.

Further, three of the five state agencies-the Department of Community Services and Development, Department of Transportation, and the Water Board-did not include paid time off in the total hours worked, as specified in the task force guidance. Of these three, two made no attempt to include paid time off in their jobs data calculation, while one attempted to include paid time off but did so incorrectly.”

Oh my.

These errors are not just little arithmetical boo boo’s, but demonstrate a certain level of ineptitude or at the very least, a dispassionate unconcern.  It is difficult not to wonder just how systemic this is, especially since the water resources agency has the formidable responsibility of tracking water quality data, and making significant decisions based upon that data.

Even more interesting is Gov.-elect Jerry Brown’s decision to eliminate the Inspector General office for the ARRA funds. If there is no regular and real oversight of the billions of dollars of federal funding flowing through the state, other than the occasional audit, then how much more is going to be wasted?

And how can California taxpayers trust any numbers or counts from the water board on the really complex matters, when simple arithmetic and following directions alludes them?

The Auditor’s recommendation for the future is totally deflating: “The task force should provide targeted technical assistance and training to state agencies that are not calculating their jobs data in accordance with OMB guidance.”

Oh great – more oversight, assistance and training is needed from the state, for the state. Maybe they’ll use stimulus money to save or create the new “targeted assistance” oversight jobs.

DEC. 21, 2010

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