Retain the "ombusdman" title
The original recommendations suggested that the name of the ombudsmen position be changed, but the joint report proposes "retaining the name to emphasize his or her role in investigating and resolving complaints. The Joint Committee also recommends that the independence of the ombudsman be assured.
Enforcement Monitor responsibilities
In addition to the DCA recommendation to appoint an enforcement monitor, the Joint Committee further defines how and when the monitor be appointed and the responsibilities of the position.
"The Joint Committee recommends that the enforcement monitor established in Recommendation #1 should be appointed by the Secretary of the State and Consumer Services Agency as soon as possible this calendar year, and be budgeted for as part of the BAR's 2004-2005 Budget. The Monitor should 1) review and evaluate BAR and perform other duties as designated by the Secretary and the Joint Committee;
"and 2) provide periodic reports with recommendations to the Department and Joint Committee. The monitor position should be named the Administration and Enforcement Monitor to reflect the broader role he or she has in reviewing, assessing, and making recommendations regarding the issues presented to the Joint Committee."
Audit shows need for improvement
The Internal Audit Office of DCA conducted an operational audit of the Bureau during 2003 and issued its report in February 2004. The audit made the following findings and recommendations and the Joint Committee concurred that certain aspects of the operation should be improved.
•BAR's strategic planning process generally aligns with state and departmental guidelines, but lacks elements for measuring progress towards achieving its goals and objectives. BAR should finalize its action plans and develop appropriate performance measures. It should also perform periodic reviews of actual operational results and provide the required quarterly reports to the Department.
•BAR's licensing/cashiering data system is inadequate and requires additional staff effort to compensate for the system's limitations. The Department, with BAR's assistance, should explore the feasibility of developing and implementing a comprehensive database system to address the current system's limitations.
•BAR's licensing processes are adequate, but could benefit from improvements. BAR should review the current tracking systems to determine whether modifications to the existing processes might eliminate some of the repetitive efforts, and BAR should also take steps to ensure file documentation is complete.
•BAR needs to improve oversight of its evidence funds. BAR should work with the Department's Office of Administrative Services to immediately request approval for the use of evidence funds, and BAR should re-establish its review process of individual evidence funds, and review fund amounts to ensure funds are appropriately established within department guidelines.
•BAR's enforcement operations adequately address consumer complaints, however, several areas need improvement. BAR should continue to explore ways to reduce its processing times for Consumer Protection Operations (non-smog) complaints and ensure all pertinent documentation is retained in the case files.
According to the Joint Committee report, BAR has generally concurred with the audit findings and has begun taking steps to address the issues and recommendations detailed by the audit.
A follow up report will provide information on the progress that BAR has made.
Stop the presses
On June 25, the Assembly Business & Professions Committee has recommended approval of SB 1542 (Figueroa), codifying the recommendations
On a 13-0 vote, the Committee sent the bill to the Appropriations Committee. If adopted by the Legislature and signed into law by the Governor, the bill would set up an operations and Administrative Monitor who would, for two years, examine the operations at BAR to determine the extent of the systemic problems and make recommendations on remedying the defects identified.