Think tank gives Maryland mixed report card on budget practices

In public debates about the budgetary soundness of state government finances, it can be hard to separate real insights from political posturing and cloudy media reporting. The legendary former Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker founded the Volcker Alliance in 2013 with the aim of enhancing government responsiveness by improving how governments work. In its report, Truth and Integrity in State Budgeting: What is the Reality? the Volcker Alliance paints a mixed picture for Maryland, and represents an opportunity for the state to make real improvements in areas considered as weaknesses.

Widespread management problems persist in Health Dept., state’s largest, auditors find

State auditors found “unsatisfactory” accountability and compliance levels within the highest management echelons of the Department of Health, the state’s largest agency. The auditors’ “unsatisfactory” designation is reserved under state law to a few large state agencies who demonstrate chronic inability to maintain a reasonable level of internal control, and cannot fix problems identified in past audits. Major problems have persisted over multiple years and several governors.

Analysis: Health Benefit Exchange gets a budget pass, and many questions remain

he Maryland Health Benefit Exchange came under intense scrutiny by legislators after its disastrous start implementing the Affordable Care Act two and half years ago. Now that the exchange and its technology seems to be working, legislators seem less anxious to probe its working and finances. That’s the conclusion from watching hearings in Annapolis over the exchange’s proposed fiscal 2017 budget testimony last month.

Analysis: Hubris at the Board of Public Works?

Whether you call him the new sheriff in town, or the public-sector incarnation of the muscle-bound wrestler “Hulk” Hogan, Governor Larry Hogan has meted out his own brand of “whoop ass” on flat-footed state bureaucrats while presiding over his first six meetings of the Board of Public Works, a three-member panel that approves major state procurements.

MTA Mobility van

Md. Transit Admin. plagued by cost-control problems

Since 2005, the Maryland Transit Administration, or MTA, has fallen short of the goal to bring in 35 cents in fares for every dollar spent. While state law mandates the goal and tasks the MTA to control costs while keeping fares low, the Office of Legislative Audits just reported a litany of cost-containment controls the transit agency failed to exercise.

UMd.-Eastern Shore lacked over oversight of grant and loan programs, had potential conflicts, auditors find

Two high-level officials at the University of Maryland Eastern Shore had conflicts of interest in up to $1.9 million of spending and grants funneled through the university’s affiliated foundation and private companies, an audit has found. Auditors reported possible conflicts involving the university and its affiliated foundation, which promotes the university and its mission. The audit described potential conflicts involving the foundation and two private companies: one controlled by the foundation’s executive director and the other owned by a relative.