The City of Chicago Office of Inspector General (OIG) has completed a second follow-up to its May 2016 audit of the Department of Administrative Hearings’ (DOAH) adjudication timeliness. Based on the Department’s responses, OIG concludes that DOAH has not fully implemented corrective actions related to the audit findings.
The purpose of the 2016 audit was to determine if DOAH used nationally recognized performance measures—namely, clearance rate and time to disposition—to assess the flow and timeliness of cases under its purview. Clearance rate is the ratio of cases closed to cases open in a given reporting period. A clearance rate under 100% means that a case backlog will grow because more cases are opened than closed. Time to disposition measures the number of days it took to close a case. Our audit found that DOAH did not measure or set standards for clearance rates or time to disposition, and that the Department’s lack of monitoring impeded its ability to identify potentially problematic backlogs and cases of unusually long duration.
Based upon the results of the audit, OIG recommended that DOAH use clearance rates and time to disposition to evaluate its own performance on an ongoing basis. We further recommended that when DOAH management identifies changing trends, it should work with ticketing departments to identify underlying causes and, where necessary, create plans to address them.
In its response to the audit, DOAH committed to adopting clearance-rate and time-to-disposition standards. The Department also committed to monitoring its performance through quarterly reports and taking appropriate action to reduce backlogs.
In August 2017, OIG inquired about corrective actions taken by DOAH in response to the audit. Based on the Department’s follow-up response, OIG concluded that DOAH had begun to implement corrective actions. Specifically, it had adopted, although not documented, a 100% clearance-rate policy, and defined time-to-disposition standards for 28, or 90.3% of 31 case types. At that time, DOAH was still in the process of developing accurate reports to monitor its performance relative to the new clearance -rate and time-to-disposition standards.
In October 2018, more than two years after the original audit, OIG inquired for a second time about the status of corrective actions. Based on DOAH’S response, OIG concludes that the Department has not fully implemented corrective actions. While DOAH has created clearance-rate and time-to-disposition monitoring reports, and incorporated a written clearance-rate policy into its clearance-rate report, the reports are not finalized. For example, DOAH could not say with confidence whether the clearance-rate reports included the required types of cases. The Department also stated that its time-to-disposition reports were still a “work in progress.” Accurate and complete monitoring reports will assist DOAH with performance review and the identification of areas of improvement. Once fully implemented, OIG believes the corrective actions reported by DOAH may reasonably be expected to improve the Department’s ability to identify and address negative operational trends, including caseload backlogs and excessive case durations. We urge DOAH to complete the process of designing and implementing complete and accurate clearance-rate and time-to-disposition monitoring reports.