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AB-2790 Veterans: Internal Audits for Veterans Affairs.(2017-2018)

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Date Published: 04/19/2018 09:00 PM
AB2790:v98#DOCUMENT

Amended  IN  Assembly  April 19, 2018

CALIFORNIA LEGISLATURE— 2017–2018 REGULAR SESSION

Assembly Bill No. 2790


Introduced by Assembly Member Irwin

February 16, 2018


An act to add and repeal Sections 73.5 and 73.6 of the Military and Veterans Code, relating to veterans.


LEGISLATIVE COUNSEL'S DIGEST


AB 2790, as amended, Irwin. Veterans: Internal Audits for Veterans Affairs.
Existing law establishes the Department of Veterans Affairs and designates the Secretary of Veterans Affairs as the chief administrative officer of the department. Existing law also establishes the California Veterans Board, and requires the board to advise the department and the secretary on policies for operations of the department. Existing law provides for veterans programs, including the veterans farm and home purchase programs, and provides for veterans homes.
This bill would create the office of Internal Audits for Veterans Affairs, the chief auditor of which would be subject to the direction of the secretary within the department. The bill would require the chief auditor to be appointed by the Governor, subject to Senate confirmation. The chief auditor would be responsible for reviewing and investigating, at the request of the secretary or other members of senior management of the department, the operations and financial condition of each California veterans home, each veterans farm and home purchase program, and other department programs and functions. Beginning January 1, 2020, and each year thereafter, the bill would require the chief auditor to submit a summary report to the board and the appropriate committees of the Legislature providing information about the office’s activities and recommendations that lead to departmental efficiencies and improvements.
The bill would authorize the chief auditor to receive communications from any individual who believes he or she may have information that warrants a review or investigation of a veterans program. The bill would require the chief auditor to establish a toll-free telephone number to report alleged wrongdoing regarding veterans programs. The bill would require the chief auditor to treat specified information relating to investigations and the individuals who provide information that leads to an investigation as confidential and not subject to public disclosure, as specified. prohibit the chief auditor from disclosing the identity of a person reporting information pursuant to these provisions without that person’s written permission, except as specified.
The bill would repeal the provisions described above on January 1, 2025.
Existing constitutional provisions require that a statute that limits the right of access to the meetings of public bodies or the writings of public officials and agencies be adopted with findings demonstrating the interest protected by the limitation and the need for protecting that interest.
This bill would make legislative findings to that effect.
Vote: MAJORITY   Appropriation: NO   Fiscal Committee: YES   Local Program: NO  

The people of the State of California do enact as follows:


SECTION 1.

 Section 73.5 is added to the Military and Veterans Code, to read:

73.5.
 (a) (1) There is hereby created the office of Internal Audits for Veterans Affairs within the department.
(2) The chief auditor shall be appointed by the Governor, subject to Senate confirmation.
(3) The chief auditor shall be subject to the direction of the secretary.
(b) The chief auditor shall conduct reviews and investigations at the request of the secretary or other members of senior management of the department with the intent of increasing efficiencies, improving operations, and reducing fraud, waste, and abuse. The chief auditor’s work shall include, but not be limited to, both of the following:
(1) Reviewing the operations and financial condition of each California veterans home and each veterans farm and home purchase program, and other department programs and functions.
(2) Investigating allegations of department employee misconduct and reporting any findings of misconduct directly to the secretary, for further action that the secretary may deem necessary.
(c) To ensure the independence of the audit function, the department and the chief auditor are subject to the requirements set forth in subdivision (a) of Section 13887 of, and Sections 13887.5 and 13888 of, the Government Code.
(d) Beginning January 1, 2020, and each year thereafter, the chief auditor shall submit a summary report to the board and the appropriate committees of the Legislature providing information about the office’s activities and identifying recommendations that lead to departmental efficiencies and improvements.
(e) This section shall remain in effect only until January 1, 2025, and as of that date is repealed, unless a later enacted statute that is enacted before January 1, 2025, deletes or extends that date.

SEC. 2.

 Section 73.6 is added to the Military and Veterans Code, to read:

73.6.
 (a) The chief auditor may receive communications from any individual, including, but not limited to, a participant in a veterans farm and home purchase program or a resident of a California veterans home, who believes he or she may have information that warrants a review or investigation of a department veterans program. If requested, the identity of the person providing the information shall be held as confidential by the chief auditor and may be disclosed only to the secretary or senior management of the department when necessary to resolve the complaint.
(b) (1) To enhance accountability, the chief auditor shall establish a toll-free public telephone number for the purpose of identifying any alleged wrongdoing regarding the department or its programs. This telephone number shall be posted at every California veterans home and throughout all department and county veterans service offices, in clear view of all veterans home residents, employees, and the public. The telephone number shall be issued to every participant of a home purchase program.
(2) When deemed appropriate by the chief auditor, he or she shall initiate a review or investigation of any alleged wrongdoing. The request shall be confidential and is not subject to disclosure under the California Public Records Act (Chapter 3.5 (commencing with Section 6250) of Division 7 of Title 1 of the Government Code).
(c) The identity of the person providing the information that initiated the review or investigation shall not be disclosed chief auditor shall not disclose the identity of a person reporting information pursuant to this section without that person’s written permission, except in response to a court order or to a law enforcement agency in the furtherance of its duties.
(d) This section shall remain in effect only until January 1, 2025, and as of that date is repealed, unless a later enacted statute that is enacted before January 1, 2025, deletes or extends that date.

SEC. 3.

 The Legislature finds and declares that Section 2 of this act, which adds Section 73.6 of the Military and Veterans Code, imposes a limitation on the public’s right of access to the meetings of public bodies or the writings of public officials and agencies within the meaning of Section 3 of Article I of the California Constitution. Pursuant to that constitutional provision, the Legislature makes the following findings to demonstrate the interest protected by this limitation and the need for protecting that interest:
In order to protect the privacy of persons who provide information of alleged wrongdoing by or complaints against veterans programs to the Chief Auditor for Veterans Affairs, the limitations on the public’s right of access imposed by Section 2 of this act are necessary.