Governor Jerry Brown signs AB 562 into law, criminalizing audit interference

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Bill follows investigations into UCOP’s role in campus-wide audits

On Oct. 2, California Governor Jerry Brown signed AB 562 into law. The bill adds wording to an existing section of California Code as well as adds a new section meant to prohibit the interference of state audits by any individual, making the act punishable by fine. A new section, 8545.6, was written into law.

Any officer or person who fails or refuses to permit access and examination and reproduction, as required by this section, is guilty of a misdemeanor,” states Section 8545.2 of the Government Code.

Section 8545.2 also states that “any officer, employee, or person who, with intent to deceive or defraud, commits obstruction of the California State Auditor in the performance of his or her official duties relating to an audit” will be “subject to a fine” up to $5,000.

The bill was originally written by California Assemblymen Al Muratsuchi, Kevin McCarty and Phil Ting shortly after the investigation of the UC Office of the President in connection to its involvement in State Auditor Elaine Howle’s audit. The investigations revealed interference by UCOP in audits done on individual campuses and $175 million saved that UCOP had failed to report.

Audit teams conducting inspections across UC campuses gave out surveys to be filled out with reviews of UCOP’s services and performance. The responses were supposed to be confidential but were discovered to have come into contact with UCOP before being returned to state auditors. In the California State Audit Report from April 2017, conducted by Howle, reviews of UCOP were said to be altered to reflect positively on the office before they were submitted.

“We learned in February 2017 that the Office of the President had requested campuses to send their survey responses to it and that the deputy chief of staff of the Office of the President […] organized a conference call with all campuses to discuss the survey and screened the surveys before the campuses submitted them to us,” the April 2017 report stated. “Specifically, because the Office of the President interfered with the survey process, we believe that the survey responses carry an unacceptably high risk of leading us and users of the survey results to reach incorrect or improper conclusions about the efficacy of the Office of the President’s operations.”

Claire Doan, a UCOP spokesperson, said via email that “The University of California did not take a position on AB 562.”

 

Written by: Elizabeth Mercado — campus@theaggie.org