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California Department of Public Health
It Could Do More to Ensure Federal Funds for Expanding the State’s
COVID-19 Testing and Contact Tracing Programs Are Used Effectively

Report Number: 2020-612


Scope and Methodology

State law authorizes the California State Auditor to establish a program to audit and issue reports with recommendations to improve any state agency or statewide issue that our office identifies as being at high risk for the potential of waste, fraud, abuse, and mismanagement or as having major challenges associated with its economy, efficiency, or effectiveness. In January 2020, we issued our latest assessment of high risk issues that the State and selected agencies face. In August 2020, we added the State’s management of federal COVID-19-related funding to that assessment as a high-risk issue because of the significant amount of money the State has received, the rapid nature of the allocation, and the urgent need for the funding. Public Health is responsible for managing a portion of the federal COVID-19-related funds. The table lists the objectives we developed for our review and the methods we used to address them.

Audit Objectives and the Methods Used to Address Them
1 Assess whether the CDC has approved Public Health’s ELC grant work plan and budget and evaluate Public Health’s controls for monitoring its own performance and that of various counties.
  • Interviewed key Public Health officials.
  • Reviewed federal law and CDC grant guidance.
  • Reviewed CDC and Public Health grant documents for stated requirements and goals. These documents included Notice of Awards, Notice of Funding Opportunities, grant work plans, grant budgets, and county allocation letters.
  • Reviewed Public Health’s metrics for its grant performance and periodic performance reports, in addition to its internal reports and analysis on testing and contact tracing.
2 Evaluate Public Health’s relationship with Heluna and determine whether there is sufficient oversight to ensure that Heluna performs its required duties.
  • Interviewed key Public Health officials.
  • Reviewed state law and the agreement between Public Health and Heluna that makes Heluna its bona fide agent.
  • Determined that the CDC advises that using an administrative partner or bona fide agent is one way to expedite the federal grant process and increase a health department’s competitiveness in applying for and accepting federal funding.
3 Determine whether Public Health is distributing its share of grant funds within federally required timelines and in a manner that allows recipients to deploy the funds immediately in response to COVID-19.
  • Interviewed key Public Health officials.
  • Reviewed federal law and CDC grant guidance.
  • Reviewed CDC and Public Health grant documents, including Notice of Awards, grant guidance documents, grant work plans, grant spending plans, and county allocation letters.
  • Identified no concerns with Public Health’s allocations.
4 Determine whether Public Health’s contract for CCRS requires monitoring to help ensure that the new data system meets timelines and operating expectations.
  • Interviewed key Public Health officials.
  • Reviewed the contract between Public Health and OptumInsight, Inc., to design, develop, configure, implement, and support CCRS.
  • Reviewed project oversight guidelines for state IT projects.
  • Reviewed relevant project documents, including status reports, checklists, deliverable expectation documents, and project plans.

Source: State High Risk Update: The California State Auditor Has Designated the State’s Management of Federal COVID-19 Funding as a High-Risk Issue, Report 2020-602, August 2020, and information and documentation identified in the column titled Method.

Assessment of Data Reliability

The U.S. Government Accountability Office, whose standards we are statutorily obligated to follow, requires us to assess the sufficiency and appropriateness of computer-processed information we use to support our findings, conclusions, or recommendations. In performing this audit, we relied on electronic data files that we obtained from Public Health. We verified that we received the information we requested. We also reviewed the data for logic and completeness. We found the data to be sufficiently reliable for our purposes.

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