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Auditor Says Judicial Council Has Fixed Procurement Problems

“The Judicial Council has made substantial progress in its procurement and payment policies and practices,” the California State Auditor reports. “In our most recent audits, the Judicial Council has consistently implemented all recommendations. As a result, the Judicial Council has strengthened its procurement and payment policies and practices.”

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The state government’s watchdog has given the Judicial Council of California a clean bill of health in its procurement policies and practices.

The approval came Thursday in a new report to Gov. Gavin Newsom and the Legislature from the California State Auditor, which investigates and monitors the operations of state agencies and departments.

The Auditor first reported in December 2013 that “certain improvements in procurement practices are needed” at the Judicial Council, the entity under which state courts operate.

“Our review of procurements that the eight judicial entities conducted found that some did not consistently use a competitive process to procure goods and services,” the 2013 report said. “The judicial contracting manual generally requires the AOC (Administrative Office of the Courts) and judicial entities to use a competitive process for procurements of $5,000 or greater. … However, four of the judicial entities could not demonstrate that they competitively procured goods or services in five of the 15 instances we reviewed for which competition was required; these goods and services totaled approximately $154,000. For example, we found that two judicial entities did not acquire multiple offers when using the California Multiple Award Schedules to obtain goods, as required for those procurements. In addition, the AOC did not competitively procure information technology goods in one of 16 procurements we reviewed for which competition was required.”

The 2013 report continued: “Moreover, we found that the AOC did not correctly evaluate bids for competitive procurements in two instances. Although the errors did not negatively affect the outcome in these instances, such errors have the potential to affect decisions regarding vendors. Moreover, the AOC and the judicial entities did not properly document their justifications for using sole-source procurements rather than a competitive process in nine instances totaling $1.6 million. … .”

In its report issued Thursday, the Auditor concludes that “the Judicial Council has made substantial progress in its procurement and payment policies and practices. … In our most recent audits, the Judicial Council has consistently implemented all recommendations. As a result, the Judicial Council has strengthened its procurement and payment policies and practices.”

The Auditor contracted with a consulting firm, Kearney, to review several aspects of the Judicial Council’s policies and processes. The Auditor included Kearney’s four key findings in its letter accompanying Thursday’s report:
  • Procurement policies: As required, the Judicial Council’s contracting manuals are consistent with requirements in state law and certain state administrative manuals.
  • Procurement processes: The Judicial Council has implemented, and its staff are consistently following, appropriate procurement controls and practices.
  • Payment processes: The Judicial Council staff are consistently following requirements in its contracting manual and its internal procedures related to vendor payments.
  • Annual procurement reports: The Judicial Council is accurately reporting required information on payments and contracts to the Legislature and the State Auditor’s Office. It is also reporting this information through the public transparency website of the Financial Information System of California (FI$Cal).

Michael S. Tilden is the acting state auditor since the retirement last month of Elaine M. Howle, who held that role for 21 years.
Dennis Noone is Executive Editor of Industry Insider. He is a career journalist, having worked as a reporter and editor at small-town newspapers and major metropolitan dailies in California, Nevada, Texas and Virginia, including as an editor with USA Today in Washington, D.C. He lives in Northern California.