SUMMARY OF: A Special Report on Department of Commerce, Community, and Economic Development.

Purpose of the Report

In accordance with Title 24 of the Alaska Statutes and a special request by the Legislative Budget and Audit Committee, we have conducted a performance audit of Alaska’s sunset review process and Department of Commerce, Community, and Economic Development’s (DCCED) occupational licensing investigative unit.

Our objectives included determining whether the current sunset process is the most efficient use of state resources and make recommendations for improving the process based on national trends and industry best practices. Further, our objectives included evaluating the efficiency and effectiveness of DCCED’s occupational licensing investigative unit.

Report Conclusions

Alaska’s sunset process has been successful at identifying and correcting significant deficiencies. Consequently, sunset laws have evolved from a means of enacting change to the mechanism for monitoring continued operations. Entity operations have matured and warrant less frequent oversight.

The sunset review period should be lengthened to eight years to more efficiently use state resources. Sunset evaluation criteria can be improved by specifically requiring an analysis of effectiveness and efficiency, including a review for duplication of effort. Both recommended changes are consistent with national trends in sunset law.

DCCED’s investigation unit has increased protection of the general public and members of licensed professions by increasing the number of disciplinary actions taken. However, the unit’s case management procedures are in need of significant improvement. The investigative unit has difficulty in efficiently addressing its caseload. Case management is hampered by poor supervision of open caseloads, a lack of standards for completing critical aspects of the investigative process, and a prioritization policy that does not ensure cases are consistently addressed in a fair and equitable manner. Most findings noted during our review can be attributed to a need for improving case management procedures.

Findings and Recommendations

Recommendation No. 1

The legislature should consider amending sunset statutes.

The legislature should consider amending sunset statutes for the following:

  • lengthening the standard sunset extension period from four to eight years,
  • expanding sunset evaluation criteria, and
  • clarifying responsibility for regulation, in the event an occupational licensing board terminates.

Recommendation No. 2

The director of the Division of Occupational Licensing should implement changes to address investigative inefficiencies and case management procedures.

Changes should include the following:

  • Restructure the organization of the investigative unit,
  • Change case assessment and assignment procedures,
  • Implement improvements to case management procedures, and
  • Implement other changes to increase efficiency and effectiveness

Recommendation No. 3

The director of the Division of Occupational Licensing should consider drafting a policy to guide investigators’ use of board members during the investigative process.

Our review of case files found that consultation with board members was poorly documented and the degree they are involved in the investigative process was unclear. While most investigators seek out board member guidance in a significant number of cases, the unit does not have clear guidance on how to utilize board members in a manner that is consistent with legal guidance.