Follow-Up of the DOAH Adjudication Timeliness Audit

The City of Chicago Office of Inspector General (OIG) has completed a follow-up to its May 2016 audit of the Department of Administrative Hearings’s (DOAH) efforts to ensure timely adjudication of cases. Based on the Department’s responses, OIG concludes that DOAH has begun to implement corrective actions related to the audit findings.

The purpose of the 2016 audit was to determine if DOAH used nationally recognized performance measures, namely clearance rate and time to disposition, to assess the flow and timely resolution of cases under its purview. The term “clearance rate” refers to the ratio of cases closed to cases opened in a given reporting period. A clearance rate under 100% means that a backlog will grow as more cases are opened than closed. The term “time to disposition” refers to the number of days taken to close a case.

Our audit found that DOAH did not measure or set standards for clearance rates or time to disposition. While OIG determined that DOAH’s overall clearance rate from 2012 through 2014 was 99.3% (meaning that DOAH opened only slightly more cases than it closed), the Department was unaware of its quarterly caseload backlog and increase in time to disposition for some case types identified by OIG’s analysis.

Based upon the results of our audit, OIG recommended that DOAH evaluate its own performance on an ongoing basis by tracking clearance rates and times to disposition, as well as other similar measures where appropriate. We also recommended that upon identification of changing trends in these metrics, DOAH should work with ticketing departments to identify causes and, if necessary, create a plan to address them. In its response to the audit, DOAH committed to adopting clearance-rate and time-to-disposition standards, and to monitoring its performance through quarterly reporting and appropriate corrective actions.

In August 2017, OIG inquired about corrective actions taken by DOAH in response to the audit. Below, we summarize the audit finding and recommendations, as well as the Department’s response to our follow-up inquiry.

Based on DOAH’s follow-up response, OIG concludes that the Department has begun to implement corrective actions. Specifically, DOAH has adopted, although not documented, a 100% clearance rate policy and defined time-to-disposition standards for 28, or 90.3% of 31 case types identified by DOAH. However, DOAH is still in the process of developing accurate reports to monitor its performance relative to the new clearance rate and time-to-disposition standards.

Once fully implemented, OIG believes the corrective actions reported by DOAH may reasonably be expected to resolve the core finding of the audit— that DOAH did not measure clearance rates or time to disposition, which impeded its ability to identify and address negative operational trends, including caseload backlogs and excessive case durations. We urge the Department to complete the process of designing and implementing accurate clearance-rate and time-to-disposition monitoring reports, and to adopt written policies and procedures regarding their use. We also urge DOAH to ensure it has identified set time-to-disposition standards for all case types. Finally, upon implementation of the monitoring reports, we urge DOAH to work with ticketing departments to identify causes of backlogs and lengthy cases, and, if necessary, to create a plan to reduce the backlog and expedite the disposal of cases.