Thursday, January 8, 2015

From The House

Bluffton Today

Most people understand that the job of the General Assembly is to make the laws of the state, and provide for the financing and implementation of those laws. We also, when needed, will make certain that state programs, a reflection of your will as expressed through your legislature, are being carried out in an efficient and prudent manner.


Currently, the Legislative Audit Council is the feature of the General Assembly that responds to member requests to look at a particular program or agency with an eye toward the aforementioned efficiency and prudence.


As an example of how this works, I will use a recent limited review of the South Carolina Human Affairs Commission (SCHAC). These folks, under Director Perry Simpson, look into allegations of illegal discrimination in the employment area, as well as in the area of housing.


SCHAC receives around $1.6 million in state general funds toward a budget of around $2.242 million. The balance of their funding comes from the federal government in the form of grants and contracts with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and Housing and Urban Development (HUD) as part of the execution and administration of federal and state missions in the respective areas of employment and housing.


SCHAC has a permanent staff and an appointed 9-member governing board. The governor appoints board members, with advice and consent of the Senate. There is one member from each district and two at-large members. One of the longest serving board members is my good friend, Joe Fregale, from Sun City.


The first area of review had to do with staffing and human resources issues. There were no glaring matters of concern, although there was some discussion of the fact that 6 of the 9 investigators had less than two years tenure with the agency. This may be one of the reasons that the average time to resolve cases of alleged discrimination has gone from 202 days to 249 days in the last two years. This may also be fallout from the impact of the Great Recession. The Audit Commission recommended that the staff establish a goal of 180 days for case resolution. They also recommended that position descriptions be clarified.


Auditors also reviewed the agency’s use of grants and other funds, as well as the use of outside resources and consultants. It was determined that the outside resources were generally efficiently used, but there was a minor fiscal issues from FY 12-13 where HUD funds were advanced to take care of unanticipated administrative costs from increased case loads. SCHAC is currently up to date on all accounts.


The Audit Council noted that many of the board members were serving beyond their designated terms because their replacements had not been nominated or seated. The board was also found to be two members short, for the same reason. The recommendation was for the governor to appoint new members.


Finally, the auditors found that some of the paperwork required of the agency was redundant, with a recommendation that the yearly final report requirement be deleted.


As a businessman who has done any number of audits, both formal and informal, I would say that the South Carolina Human Rights Commission came through the process looking pretty good. I commend the director, Perry Simpson, for continuing the good work. I also thank Joe Fregale for his contribution to this important but somewhat thankless work. Those who know Joe are not surprised that any organization he might be tasked to oversee would not stray far from the straight and narrow.


Next week, we will officially be in session. As always, you deserve the real story, and here’s where you’ll find it