According to a city audit, two community court programs in south Dallas designed to help and rehabilitate residents accused of minor offenses have such poor record keeping and oversight that it’s hard to determine if they’re working as intended.
A random sample of South Dallas Drug Court and South Oak Cliff Veterans Court files revealed incomplete records of members, improperly vetted vendors, and former City employees who, among other things, still have access to sensitive information, according to city audit service. .
For example, one health care provider notified the city that participants would be charged extra when they should not have paid anything. The audit showed that it is not clear that participants were ultimately charged for the free service because the documents accompanying the invoices were “incomplete and inconsistent”.
Both grant-funded programs are overseen by the city’s attorney’s office through the Dallas Community Court system. In 2022, the city accepted over $375,000 from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services for Drug Court and $50,000 from the Texas Veterans Affairs Commission for Veterans Treatment Court.
“In the absence of well-defined oversight of monitoring treatment courts, the City’s Attorney’s Office is unable to confirm that the financial and operational activities of treatment courts comply with applicable City of Dallas procedures and federal and state grant requirements,” an audit released Dec. 12. 29, said. The audit considered records for the period from October 2017 to September 2020.
The community courts programs have been in operation for less than 10 years and accept individuals charged with class C offenses, those suffering from alcoholism or substance abuse, and psychiatric disorders. Veterans and others may be referred for medical treatment and other services such as job training and financial planning. Fines, legal fees, and possible jail time may be waived by a judge upon successful completion of programs. Community service may also be part of the agreement.
The Drug Court plans to see about 75 people a year, and the Veterans Court plans to see about 60 people.
The audit attributed the problems to the lack of written policies and procedures that would provide adequate oversight.
City Attorney Chris Caso said in a statement that his office already has procedures in place to address monitoring, record keeping and payment issues. He said they plan to review them and “make the necessary changes.”
“While an audit of the specialized courts found a low level of risk, we recognized that there is always room for improvement,” Caso wrote to city auditor Mark Swann.
During the audit, an analysis of 26 contracts showed that eight had no documentation showing that their insurance had been reviewed and approved by the city, four had no insurance documentation, and one had no evidence of insurance coverage.
Also, it was not recorded that city employees personally saw the services provided to program participants.
An examination of 35 invoices revealed that all of them did not show the total amount requested to date, or showed an amount different from what the city had agreed to in the contract. Other issues included the absence of supporting documentation on 25 of these invoices, nine invoices using non-contractual rates, and five of which did not include service dates.
There have also been several instances where it took months for suppliers to receive payment from the city. In one case, the city was billed over $1,000 from a single supplier in September 2018, but the supplier did not receive payment until November. In another case, a seller billed the city for $3,800 in September 2018 but did not receive payment until February 2019.
“The City Attorney’s Office does not have written procedures and work instructions on what supporting documentation must accompany an invoice, nor on how to review, review, approve, and document invoices to ensure that the City of Dallas pays appropriate services on time, provided to the relevant persons. way,” the auditor said in a statement.
The review found that paper and electronic case file records detailing people’s treatment, community service hours, and other progress were not complete or accurate. Because of this, there was no reliable record to determine that all treatment participants completed program requirements before their charges were dropped, the audit said.
“In addition, the leadership of the South Dallas Drug Court and the South Oak Cliff Veterans Court was unable to provide a credible list of current and past participants,” the report says.
The City also does not keep track of who has access to the software used as an electronic case database. The audit showed that 10 former city employees were still active users and had access to the file database.
“As a result, sensitive customer information is vulnerable to forgery and unauthorized disclosure,” the audit says.
The review did not say whether any evidence was found that the information had been forged or improperly disclosed.
The Audit Office has issued a series of recommendations to the City Attorney’s Office on the implementation of rules requiring audits to ensure that providers are properly vetted and consistent services are delivered. Other recommendations include the establishment of written policies and procedures that promote proper record keeping, fully trained City staff, and timely payment of vendors.
The Auditor’s Office has set a date of June 9 to follow up on the progress of their recommendations.