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Audit of the Northwestern District Attorney’s Office Objectives, Scope, and Methodology

An overview of the purpose and process of auditing the Northwestern District Attorney’s Office.

Table of Contents

Overview

In accordance with Section 12 of Chapter 11 of the Massachusetts General Laws, the Office of the State Auditor has conducted a performance audit of certain activities of the Northwestern District Attorney’s Office (NWDA) for the period January 1, 2015 through December 31, 2017.

We conducted this performance audit in accordance with generally accepted government auditing standards. Those standards require that we plan and perform the audit to obtain sufficient, appropriate evidence to provide a reasonable basis for our findings and conclusions based on our audit objectives. We believe that the evidence obtained provides a reasonable basis for our findings and conclusions based on our audit objectives.

Below is a list of our audit objectives, indicating each question we intended our audit to answer; the conclusion we reached regarding each objective; and, if applicable, where each objective is discussed in the audit findings.

Objective

Conclusion

  1. Does NWDA’s Juvenile Diversion Program (JDP) do the following?

 

a. assess the needs of offenders

Yes

b. define deliverables and expectations

Yes

c. monitor progress

Yes

d. confirm achievement of all deliverables and expectations before program completion

Yes

e. collect statistical data for the purpose of outcome evaluation

No; see Finding 1

  1. Do victims and witnesses of crimes who choose to participate in NWDA’s Victim Witness Assistance Program (VWAP) receive assistance as required by Section 5 of Chapter 258B of the General Laws?

 Yes

To achieve our objectives, we obtained an understanding of NWDA’s internal controls that we considered significant to our audit objectives by reviewing policies, procedures, laws, and regulations and interviewing management. We examined the design and effectiveness of controls regarding the completion of intake forms, definition of the due dates for deliverables in the JDP, and issuance of letters after arraignments for victims and witnesses in the VWAP.

In addition, we performed the following procedures to obtain sufficient, appropriate audit evidence to address our audit objectives.

The JDP

We obtained a list of all JDP cases with intake dates from January 1, 2015 through December 31, 2017, totaling 239 cases, from the District Attorney Management Information Office Network (DAMION) case-management system. We segregated the 239 cases from the list into four completion status groups: “successful,” “failed,” “ongoing,” and “other.”

We identified 198 cases with a “successful” status. A “successful” status means that all contract deliverables were completed within an agreed-upon timeframe. Using a nonstatistical sampling method, we judgmentally selected a sample of 25 cases out of 198. For the 25 cases selected, we acquired the case files from NWDA staff members who were responsible for administering the JDP. To determine whether participants’ needs were adequately assessed, we inspected the Juvenile Diversion Program Intake Reports used by NWDA to confirm that each one was properly completed by the parent or guardian, the juvenile, and NWDA personnel. To determine whether deliverables and expectations were defined, we inspected the original contract language and any amendments to the contract. To evaluate NWDA’s monitoring of participants’ progress, we inspected the documentation NWDA maintained regarding the extent to which participants completed program requirements. To determine the extent to which participants successfully completed the program, we inspected documents in case files to substantiate completion of program requirements, motions to dismiss filed with courts, and notification to participants that the program was successfully completed.

Cases with a “failed” status totaled 19. A “failed” status means that the participant failed to complete some or all program deliverables within the timeframe specified by the contract. Using a nonstatistical sampling method, we judgmentally selected a sample of 5 cases out of 19. For the five cases selected, we acquired the case files from NWDA staff members who were responsible for administering the JDP. To determine whether participants’ needs were adequately assessed, we inspected the Juvenile Diversion Program Intake Reports used by NWDA to confirm that each one was properly completed by the parent or guardian, the juvenile, and NWDA personnel. To determine whether deliverables and expectations were defined, we inspected the original contract language and any amendments to the contract. We also determined whether contracts were properly executed. To evaluate NWDA’s monitoring of participants’ progress, we inspected documents in case files to determine whether assistance was provided to participants to address any barriers to program completion. To confirm that the five participants in our sample failed to achieve all the deliverables specified in their contracts, we inspected motions to continue filed with courts and notifications of failure sent to parents or guardians and to participants by the NWDA JDP staff.

Cases with an “ongoing” status totaled 10. An “ongoing” status means the participant started the program during our audit period and had not completed it by December 31, 2017. Using a nonstatistical sampling method, we judgmentally selected a sample of 5 cases out of 10. For the five cases selected, we acquired the case files from NWDA staff members who were responsible for administering the JDP. To determine whether participants’ needs were adequately assessed, we inspected the Juvenile Diversion Program Intake Reports used by NWDA to confirm that each one was properly completed by the parent or guardian, the juvenile, and NWDA personnel. To determine whether deliverables and expectations were defined, we inspected the original contract language and any amendments to the contract. To evaluate NWDA’s monitoring of participants’ progress, we inspected documents in case files to substantiate completion of program requirements, documentation addressing barriers to completion, and documentation to support case dismissal or nolle prosequi1 status. To confirm that the cases were active as of December 31, 2017, we inspected file contents from after our audit period, including documented correspondence; copies of motions filed with the court; documentation confirming case dismissal or nolle prosequi status; motions filed with the court; and, if applicable, notifications of final program status sent to parents or guardians and to participants. 

We identified 12 cases with “other” status; these were cases that NWDA decided not to prosecute. Using a nonstatistical sampling method, we judgmentally selected a sample of 4 of the 12 cases. For the four cases selected, we acquired the case files from NWDA staff members who were responsible for administering the JDP. To determine whether participants’ needs were adequately assessed, we inspected the Juvenile Diversion Program Intake Reports used by NWDA to confirm that each one was properly completed by the parent or guardian, the juvenile, and NWDA personnel. To determine whether deliverables and expectations were defined, we inspected the original contract language and any amendments to the contract. To evaluate NWDA’s monitoring of participants’ progress, we inspected documents in the case files to determine whether NWDA documented that each program component was completed by the date specified in each participant’s contract. To confirm that participants achieved deliverables through the date the charges were dropped, we inspected completion forms for program requirements, examined motions filed with the court, and confirmed that participants were informed of dismissal of charges and that there was proper documentation to support case dismissal or nolle prosequi status.

In addition, to determine whether NWDA collects statistical data for the purpose of outcome measurement, we conducted an interview with NWDA officials.

We used nonstatistical sampling methods for testing and therefore did not project the results of our testing to the population.

The VWAP

We obtained a list from DAMION of all 7,240 cases with victims and/or witnesses identified for the audit period. The list included victims and witnesses who requested services, as well as those who were eligible for services but did not request them. Using a statistical sampling method and Audit Command Language software, with a confidence level of 95% and tolerable error rate of 5%, we selected a random sample of 60 out of 7,240 cases. We obtained the case file for each selected case, including a victim witness case sheet, a case progress report, hardcopy documents related to program requirements, and a case notes sheet. Specifically, we confirmed the type of services requested, and we reviewed supporting documents for all services provided and determined whether NWDA complied with Section 5 of Chapter 258B of the General Laws.

Data Reliability Assessment

We reviewed certain general information technology controls over DAMION to determine the reliability of the data therein. In addition, we ran data integrity tests and performed tests for accuracy and completeness. We determined that the data were sufficiently reliable for the purposes of our audit work.

1.    Nolle prosequi status means the prosecution has decided to drop the charges against the defendant.

Date published: November 29, 2018
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