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Management Audit of the Legal Aid Society of Hawaii

Report No. 97-10


The Office of the Auditor conducted a management audit of the Legal Aid Society of Hawaii.  This audit was conducted pursuant to Act 305, Session Laws of Hawaii, 1996, which directed the Auditor to conduct a management audit of the Legal Aid Society of Hawaii and recommend whether the society should continue [sic] to receive moneys from the Indigent Legal Assistance Fund.  We also followed up on the recommendations of our 1991 report (Report No.  91-20).  We focused only on those recommendations addressing or relevant to management practices. 

At the current time, we find no significant reason why the Legal Aid Society of Hawaii should not be eligible to receive moneys from the Indigent Legal Assistance Fund created in Act 305.  We found that the society meets all of the general criteria stipulated in the act.  Further, we found that the society has implemented a number of improvements based upon the recommendations of our 1991 audit.  These improvements include 1) the Board of Directors has demonstrated management oversight by conducting assessments of the executive director; 2) management has utilized more efficient practices such as increasing staff input into the decision making process and decentralizing some responsibilities where appropriate; and 3) the society has formed a technology committee that has taken steps to computerize some of its operations. 

However, we also found that the society's management practices have not kept pace with its information needs.  In response to reductions in funding support from government, the society has aggressively sought new funding sources.  Each office was instructed to generate funds to cover expected shortfalls in its own budget or suffer layoffs or cuts in services.  But management has difficulty tracking funding proposals at local offices and does not consistently assess how obtaining those funds will impact services.  The society also lacks guidelines for evaluating how potential and current funding sources will help the agency. 

We also found that the method of program evaluation is inadequate.  Current program evaluation methods do not evaluate the society's entire operation, which makes it difficult to determine how effectively the society meets its mission.  Program evaluation consists primarily of a small sample of client satisfaction surveys that have not been conducted on a regular basis. 

Recommendations and Response

Our report recommends that the Legal Aid Society of Hawaii develop a formal monitoring and evaluation system to improve its ability to manage and assess its diverse funding base.  Particularly, this should include a methodology to assess the impact and desirability of new funding sources and a system to monitor and evaluate existing funding sources. 

We also recommend that the society ensure that client satisfaction surveys are conducted on a quarterly basis and a formal and comprehensive method of program evaluation be developed that periodically evaluates the society's operation as a whole. 

Finally, should the society be selected as a recipient of the Indigent Legal Assistance Fund, the Office of Community Services in the Department of Labor and Industrial Relations should require the society to submit a report by January 31, 1998 outlining how it has improved its practices in the collection and use of financial and management information. 

The society's Board of Directors responded that it was pleased with our positive findings, but disagreed with some issues raised in our other findings.  The board also provided additional information to clarify some of the society's activities.

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