Minnesota Office of the Legislative Auditor
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Report Summary
Board of Public Defense

Financial Audit For the Three Fiscal Years
Ended June 30, 1998

 

Public Release Date: October 8, 1998 No. 98-58

Background

The Board of Public Defense is a Judicial Branch agency whose purpose is to provide criminal defense services to indigent defendants in Minnesota. The Public Defender System is organized into three component areas: the Public Defense Board and its Administrative Services Office, the State Public Defender, and District Public Defense. The Public Defense Board is primarily responsible for overseeing the state's public defender system. The board is also responsible for allocating funds to the state public defender, the ten district public defender operations, and five public defense corporations. The State Public Defender's Office provides services to indigent prisoners appealing criminal cases to the Supreme Court and the Court of Appeals. Mr. John M. Stuart is the State Public Defender.

The Administrative Services Office provides administrative support to all three component areas. It has responsibility for the payroll and disbursement functions for the board, the State Public Defender's Office, and the district public defense offices.

Scope and Conclusions

We audited the Board of Public Defense for the period July 1, 1995, through June 30, 1998. Our audit scope included the following areas: payroll and travel expenditures, grants to counties and public defense corporations, and administrative expenditures, including rent, supplies and equipment, and professional and technical services.

We found that the board should improve its purchasing process. The board did not always encumber funds before purchasing goods, formally document payment approval before paying for goods and services, and establish contracts before the vendor provided services. In addition, the board did not correctly classify certain disbursements on the accounting system. Finally, we found that, in some cases, the board did not maintain documentation supporting certain accounting transactions.

We found that the board generally designed and implemented internal controls to provide reasonable assurance that payroll and travel expenditures were accurately reported in the accounting records. However, the board incorrectly computed hourly pay based on annual salaries. We also found that the board accurately recorded grants to counties and public defense corporations in the accounting records. However, the board was unable to obtain written agreements with the fourth judicial district (Hennepin County) public defense office during the audit period.

The board generally agreed with the report, except for the issue of computing hourly pay based on annual salaries. In the board's response, it indicated that a conscious decision was made concerning the method of calculating hourly pay. However, the board agreed to convert its annual salaries to the state standard for all staff beginning in fiscal year 2000.

 

Office of the Legislative Auditor ♦ Room 140, 658 Cedar St., St. Paul, MN 55155