Audit Finds Massachusetts Failed to Perform Background Checks for Licensure

Criminal Background Checks

Written By ESR News Blog Editor Thomas Ahearn

An “Audit of the Division of Professional Licensure (DPL)” by the Office of the State Auditor in Massachusetts showed that the inadequacy and unreliability of DPL’s data meant that neither the agency nor the Auditor’s Office could determine how many professionals were licensed without undergoing the required background checks.

The purpose of the audit – which examined the period of July 1, 2017, through March 31, 2020 – was to determine whether DPL performed Criminal Offender Record Information (CORI) and Sex Offender Record Information (SORI) checks for license applicants in accordance with the requirements of its license application process.

The DPL uses two software programs to track license applications and renewals and maintain CORI and SORI check information: Accela and MyLicense Office (MLO). The audit could not determine if DPL conducted CORI or SORI checks for all license applicants because the data in Accela and MLO were incomplete and inaccurate.

  • According to data in Accela, 61,720 unique individuals were granted licenses during the audit period; however, for 41,131 (67%) of these individuals, there was no CORI information in Accela. We also analyzed SORI information in Accela and determined that 25,918 (42%) of the 61,720 licensees did not have any such information. Further, the data in Accela were not defined correctly (e.g., date fields contained characters instead of numbers), which also compromised the integrity of the data.
  • According to data in MLO, OPSI issued 31,740 unique licenses during the audit period. Only 408 (1%) of the licensees had any CORI check information; 31,332 (99%) had none. As previously noted, OPSI (Office of Public Safety and Inspections) only requires a CORI check for 9 of its 85 licenses. There is no field in MLO that indicates whether a CORI check is required. Because of this limitation, we could not determine how many of these 31,332 licensees should have had CORI checks.

The audit found DPL had not established adequate internal controls over any aspect of its background checks. To ensure background checks are conducted consistently and documented properly, the audit recommended DPL management immediately develop and implement policies and procedures for those processes.

“DPL appreciates the recommendations contained in the draft audit report regarding internal controls over background checks, which are in line with the changes the agency was working on before the audit began,” DPL stated in a response to the audit, adding that CORI and SORI background checks will be centralized into one unit.

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