The State Worker

Auditor’s report highlights California’s data lapses

State Auditor Elaine Howle’s review found just 19 of 53 data tracking systems provided reliable information.
State Auditor Elaine Howle’s review found just 19 of 53 data tracking systems provided reliable information. Sacramento Bee file

Nearly two-thirds of California state government data systems checked by auditors over two years contained unreliable information or were impossible to scrutinize for accuracy, according to a report released Tuesday.

The assessment by State Auditor Elaine Howle summarizes findings from department audits in 2012 and 2013 and, she said in a letter to lawmakers, calls attention to “where important data are not always reliable, and to instances in which information has been reliable.”

Auditors determined 17 of 53 systems checked “were not sufficiently reliable” for them to confidently use the information, Howle noted.

A state water-quality database maintained by the State Water Resources Control Board, for example, tracks certain violations and certifications. But auditors didn’t use the information it contains because staff told them the database was out of date “due to a data entry backlog.”

Other departments had poor data controls and, in the case of the state courts’ administrative office, failings that auditors didn’t specify “because of their sensitive nature” such as “court case management records, human resources data and financial data.”

Howle said another 17 systems had “undetermined reliability” because it was impractical or too costly to test the information. During an audit of the California State University system’s statewide financial program, the agency decided it would be cost-prohibitive to trace the summary-level data back to individual transactions. Auditors couldn’t determine the reliability of another CSU system because it is paperless, so no hard copies existed to verify the data.

The remaining 19 systems contained accurate information and enough of it that investigators could use the data to draw accurate conclusions, Howle wrote.

Call Jon Ortiz, Bee Capitol Bureau, (916) 321-1043.

  Comments