Sneak Preview: Tenn. Audit Calls for Improved Program Monitoring

January 30, 2015 | By Jerry Ashworth | Post a Comment

xsass_bookshot(The following was excerpted from a recent article in the Single Audit Information Service.) In response to a recent Tennessee Comptroller of the Treasury (TCT) audit, the child care program director for the Tennessee Department of Education (TDE) plans to meet more regularly with evaluators of school-age child care sites to ensure that inspections are thorough and that these facilities are properly monitored.

A 2011 TCT performance audit of the state’s school-aged child care programs found that TDE lacked proper oversight in these programs and that it needed a centralized process for verifying local educational agencies’ (LEAs’) self-reported data. TCT recently conducted a follow-up performance audit to determine if TDE had addressed these findings.

Although TCT determined that TDE had made significant improvements since 2011, it could continue to improve its child care monitoring efforts. State law requires that TDE review about 2,000 child care centers to ensure that they meet standards set by Tennessee’s State Board of Education. Among the standards, child care centers must:

  • require their workers to have background checks;
  • submit an annual report by Oct. 1 to qualify to receive a certificate of approval; and
  • receive at least two TDE visits each year (one of which may be unannounced).

TDE field staff known as child care program evaluators conduct inspections to determine whether the centers are in compliance with the board’s standards and if they meet certificate of approval requirements. TDE’s monitoring program “is a decentralized system for which 18 evaluators must cover the entire state,” TCT said. “Thus, the risk of fraud, waste, abuse, error, inefficiency and ineffectiveness of programs are elevated. Furthermore, because child welfare is directly impacted by this program, the department needs a system to provide the information necessary to make the required assurances with regard to the program’s outcomes and accountability.”

Performance and outcomes are key goals under the Office of Management and Budget’s uniform grant guidance, which requires federal awarding agencies to tie program expenditures to program performance (§200.301). In addition, the federal agency should provide recipients with clear performance goals, indicators and milestones (§200.210) in the award document terms and conditions. Federal agencies and pass-through entities also may place specific conditions on award recipients and subrecipients that fail to meet expected performance goals (§200.207) or who are deemed at higher risk.

TCT found that 54 percent of annual report forms were incomplete. In addition, TDE’s child care program director was not making regular visits to field service centers to participate in inspections with evaluators, and was not regularly reviewing inspection documentation. Further, child care evaluators were not being systematically rotated among regional offices.


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