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California State Auditor Report Number: 2015-302

Judicial Branch Procurement
Although the Judicial Council Needs to Strengthen Controls Over Its Information Systems, Its Procurement Practices Generally Comply With Applicable Requirements





Summary

HIGHLIGHTS

Our audit of the procurement practices by the Judicial Council of California (Judicial Council) highlighted the following:


Results in Brief

Our review of procurement practices by the Judicial Council of California (Judicial Council) found that it is generally complying with the requirements of the 2011 California Judicial Branch Contract Law (judicial contract law) and with the provisions of the Judicial Branch Contracting Manual (judicial contracting manual).1 As required by the judicial contract law, the Judicial Council maintains the judicial contracting manual, which outlines procedures for Judicial Council personnel and the personnel of all other entities within the State’s judicial branch to follow when procuring goods and services. The results of our audit indicate that the Judicial Council has corrected nearly all of the problems with its procurement and payment practices that we identified in our December 2013 report.2 These problems included instances in which the Judicial Council incorrectly scored vendors’ bids and instances in which it did not document its justification for using a noncompetitive, sole‑source procurement process. To evaluate the Judicial Council’s compliance with procurement requirements, we reviewed 60 of its procurements that occurred between July 2013 and June 2015. We found no additional instances of the procurement and payment problems that we had previously identified. For example, for the 23 competitively bid procurements that we reviewed, the Judicial Council correctly evaluated each vendor‑submitted bid according to the appropriate evaluation methodology outlined in the judicial contracting manual. In addition, we reviewed 37 noncompetitive procurements and found that the Judicial Council obtained approvals and documented their process for ensuring prices were fair and reasonable for each one as required.

State law requires that the policies and procedures in the judicial contracting manual be consistent with the California Public Contract Code and substantially similar to the provisions contained in the State Administrative Manual and the State Contracting Manual. We found that the judicial contracting manual’s policies generally met these requirements with one exception: the judicial contracting manual does not include a reference to fuel economy standards applicable to the judicial branch’s vehicle purchases that were recently added to the State Administrative Manual. Judicial Council staff indicated that they would take steps to resolve this deficiency. Further, we confirmed that the Judicial Council’s local contracting manual (local manual) includes information that the judicial contracting manual requires local manuals to address.

In contrast to the progress it has made in its procurement policies and practices, the Judicial Council has still not resolved prevalent weaknesses in the general controls over its information systems. In our December 2013 audit report we identified pervasive deficiencies in our review of selected information system controls over the two systems that provide procurement data contained in the semiannual reports. The weaknesses we identified continue to compromise the security and availability of the judicial branch’s information systems, which contain sensitive information such as court case management records and human resources data. In addition, we determined that an unacceptably high risk exists that data the Judicial Council uses for creating the semiannual reports and for its day‑to‑day operations could lead to an incorrect or inappropriate conclusion. In the nearly two years since the December 2013 report’s publication, the Judicial Council has not fully implemented the controls required to address the pervasive weaknesses we identified over its information systems and could not provide a projected date for full implementation.

Finally, the Judicial Council implemented our previous recommendation that it make available its semiannual reports containing information on its procurement activities in an electronic format that allows users to readily sort and filter the data. Beginning in February 2014 the Judicial Council modified its semiannual reports so that users can more easily isolate specific procurement activities of interest to them.

Recommendations

The Judicial Council should update the judicial contracting manual to include the required minimum fuel economy standards for vehicle purchases.

The Judicial Council should develop a corrective action plan by February 29, 2016, to address the recommendation from our December 2013 audit report related to the controls over its information systems. The corrective action plan should include prioritizing the tasks, resources, primary and alternative funding sources, and milestones for all of the actions required to fully implement its framework of information system controls by June 2016. Further, the Judicial Council should continue to provide guidance and routinely follow up with the superior courts to assist in their efforts to make the necessary improvements to their information system controls.

Agency Comments

Although the Judicial Council agreed to implement both of our recommendations, it stated that it will not implement improvements to controls over its information systems by the June 2016 date that we recommend.




Footnotes

1 We use the name Judicial Council in this report to refer collectively to the Judicial Council’s policymaking body and to its support staff. The policymaking body approves procurement‑related policies, and the support staff conducts the procurement and payment activities. Go back to text

2 Judicial Branch Procurement: Semiannual Reports to the Legislature Are of Limited Usefulness, Information Systems Have Weak Controls, and Certain Improvements in Procurement Practices Are Needed, Report 2013‑302 and 2013‑303, December 2013. Go back to text


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