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Press Release Audit Reveals Deficiencies in Case Management and Annual Reporting at Division of Administrative Law Appeals

Agency says understaffing forced them to adjust priorities.
For immediate release:
4/07/2021
  • Office of the State Auditor

Media Contact for Audit Reveals Deficiencies in Case Management and Annual Reporting at Division of Administrative Law Appeals

Noah Futterman

An image of a court room.

BostonIn a statement accompanying an audit released today, State Auditor Suzanne M. Bump observed that the Division of Administrative Law Appeals (DALA) lacks the staffing necessary to completely fulfill its responsibilities in a timely manner. Through its General Jurisdiction Unit (GJU) and its Bureau of Special Education Appeals (BSEA), DALA conducts hearings and adjudicates matters for certain state agencies and provides dispute resolution for individualized education program participants and special education services.

DALA’s last audit in 2015, revealed deficiencies in the agency’s case management and annual reporting. Case management and other issues still persist at the agency. Most problematically, there is a lack of controls related to case hearing documentation, leading to possible delays in processing disputes and backlogs of cases awaiting action. In some cases, BSEA hearing officers did not properly document case postponements or requests for hearing extensions.

The current audit also showed DALA lacked an internal control plan that complied with guidelines issued by the state Comptroller. In response to this finding, DALA pointed to a lack of available time and personnel which forced the agency to prioritize maintaining operations over developing these controls and procedures.

The audit determined DALA submitted annual reports to the legislature that were missing required information, including details for total hearings, case processing time, and information on closed cases. The audit notes that without this information, the Legislature cannot properly evaluate DALA’s case management process.

“Although the Division of Administrative Law Appeals has made progress in some areas since our last audit, it’s clear the agency still has a way to go to improve its timeliness in handling matters that come before it and in meeting its reporting requirements. While DALA bears the responsibility for these shortcomings and should enhance their own internal procedures and staff training, it’s evident the agency would benefit from additional personnel,” Bump said. “I commend DALA for taking these matters seriously and urge the agency and its secretariat, the Executive Office for Administration and Finance, to work with the Legislature to secure an adequate budget.”

DALA was established in 1974 under the purview of the Executive Office for Administration and Finance (EOAF). The agency operates under the direction of a chief administrative magistrate, who was appointed by the Secretary of EOAF with the approval of the Governor. Its GJU unit conducts adjudication for state agencies including, the Contributory Retirement Appeal Board, the Board of Registration in Medicine, the Department of Public Health and the Fair Labor Division of the Office of the Attorney General. In fiscal year 2020, DALA received $1,220,257 in state appropriations. As of 2019, it had 30 total employees, including 10 for GJU and 20 for BSEA.

The full audit report is available here.

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Media Contact for Audit Reveals Deficiencies in Case Management and Annual Reporting at Division of Administrative Law Appeals

Office of the State Auditor 

The Office of State Auditor Suzanne M. Bump (OSA) conducts audits, investigations, and studies to promote accountability and transparency, improve performance, and make government work better.
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