Minnesota Office of the Legislative Auditor
Program Evaluation Division

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PROGRAM EVALUATION DIVISION
A GUIDE FOR AGENCIES

OFFICE OF THE LEGISLATIVE AUDITOR

The Office of the Legislative Auditor (OLA) is the auditor of Minnesota state government. OLA examines the financial operations of state agencies and the performance of state-funded or state-authorized programs. It conducts audits, evaluations, and investigations, and it reports the results to the Minnesota Legislature.

OLA’s mission is to strengthen accountability and legislative oversight in state government. Its goal is to issue reports that are accurate, objective, timely, and useful. The office provides state officials and the public with a valuable resource—reliable, nonpartisan information about the performance and financial condition of state government. OLA is distinct from the Office of the State Auditor, a Constitutional office headed by an elected official. That office conducts audits of local governments. This brochure provides information about OLA’s Program Evaluation Division and your organization’s role in our process. For more information about OLA, copies of reports, or a list of work in progress, visit our website at: www.auditor.leg.state.mn.us

PROGRAM EVALUATION DIVISION

The Program Evaluation Division was established in 1975. Legislators wanted to expand OLA’s ability to examine the management of state agencies and the cost-effectiveness of state-funded programs. State law directs the division to:

  • …determine the degree to which the activities and programs entered into or funded by the state are accomplishing their goals and objectives, including a critical analysis of goals and objectives, measurement of program results and effectiveness, alternative means of achieving the same results, and efficiency in the allocation of resources. (Minnesota Statutes, 3.971, subd. 7)

LEGISLATIVE AUDIT COMMISSION

The Office of the Legislative Auditor (OLA) works with many legislators and legislative committees, but it directly reports to the Legislative Audit Commission. The commission is bicameral and bipartisan, with equal representation from the House and Senate and the two major political parties.

One of the commission’s most important responsibilities is to appoint the Legislative Auditor, who serves a six-year term. The commission also approves topics for OLA to evaluate and may request specific audits or investigations.

Commission members are not involved in conducting audits, evaluations, or investigations. In fact, commission members do not receive copies of OLA reports until they are made public by the Office of the Legislative Auditor.

PROGRAM EVALUATION TOPIC SELECTION

According to state law, the Legislative Audit Commission (LAC) may direct the Legislative Auditor to evaluate any state or metropolitan department or agency, and “any program or activity established or funded, in whole or in part, by the state.”

  • The LAC solicits ideas from all legislators regarding potential programs for evaluation. Anyone may suggest a topic for program evaluation.
  • The LAC Topic Selection Subcommittee selects 10 to 15 “semi-finalist” evaluation topics.
  • OLA surveys all legislators to measure their interest in the semi-finalist topics. At the same time, staff develop background papers on these topics.
  • The Topic Selection Subcommittee recommends five to seven topics for evaluation.
  • The full LAC approves or modifies the Topic Selection Subcommittee’s recommendations.

In selecting topics, the LAC considers factors such as:

  • Legislative interest
  • State resources
  • Potential for improvement

The Program Evaluation Division typically completes five to seven evaluations each year on topics approved by the Legislative Audit Commission.

While the Legislative Audit Commission selects evaluation topics, evaluations are conducted independently by OLA’s professional staff, and the resulting reports are solely the responsibility of OLA. Legislators do not review OLA reports before they are made public by the Legislative Auditor.

EVALUATION FIELDWORK

During fieldwork, evaluators interview agency staff, observe operations, and collect and analyze data. OLA staff may conduct additional activities—such as literature reviews, surveys, or legal research—that are necessary to develop and support evaluation findings.

YOUR COOPERATION

State law requires organizations and individuals subject to OLA examination to cooperate fully with the office. That includes providing OLA staff with access to all data and documents, even those classified by law as “not public.” If cooperation is not forthcoming, OLA has legal authority to compel cooperation through subpoenas.

REPORT DEVELOPMENT AND REVIEW

Evaluations may address a range of issues. For example, evaluations may examine compliance with the law, program outcomes, or operational efficiency. OLA makes recommendations for improvement to both agency officials and the Legislature.

Before OLA releases an evaluation report, your organization will have the opportunity to review and comment on the draft report. OLA staff may make changes to the draft based on the comments to ensure accuracy and fairness. After changes have been made, your organization will be asked to write a response letter that will be published with the final report.

REPORT RELEASE

OLA often releases its reports at meetings of the Legislative Audit Commission. In these cases, your organization will have the opportunity to respond after OLA’s presentation. In addition, OLA staff often present reports to House and Senate committees with jurisdiction over the agency or program reviewed.

FOLLOW UP

OLA may contact your organization several months after an evaluation to learn if the organization has made any changes in response to the evaluation.

 

Legislative Auditor: Jim Nobles 651-296-4708 James.Nobles@state.mn.us

Deputy Legislative Auditor, Program Evaluation Division: Judy Randall 651-296-1227 Judy.Randall@state.mn.us

More Information

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