Department of Consumer Affairs’ Supervision ‘Faulty’
In a "scathing" 71-page report, the Bureau of State Audits "chastised" the state Department of Consumer Affairs for failing to "adequately" supervise regulatory boards and allowing their "weaknesses to go undetected," the Sacramento Bee reports. DCA comprises 35 regulatory boards, bureaus and programs created to oversee certain businesses, including nursing homes and health professions. According to the bureau's report, which was based on an audit of all the department's boards, Consumer Affair's regulatory boards took "much too long" to suspend or revoke illegal business operators' licenses. For example, the Board of Pharmacy averaged 658 days to revoke licenses. The report also faulted some regulatory boards for acting too slowly to revoke licenses in disciplinary cases. The Dental Board averaged 400 days to process such cases, while the Board of Psychology took 401 days, the Acupuncture Board took 730 days and the Board of Optometry averaged 780 days. The report stated that because of the lengthy delays, "licensees who may be a threat to consumers' health and safety can continue to operate." In addition, the report found:
- only half of Consumer Affair's boards provided consumers with toll-free numbers to lodge their complaints;
- most boards and bureaus did not set time limits to address consumers' complaints; and
- some boards took as long as two years to complete license applications.
Douglas Cordiner, the principal auditor on the report, said that if the department had better oversight, it would have uncovered the problems itself. Consumer Affairs spokesperson Mike Luery agreed with most of the report's findings, but added that since the department's current director, Kathleen Hamilton, took over two years ago, the department has "made great strides to reform." However, the audit began last spring, more than one year after Hamilton took the helm. Still, Cordiner acknowledged that the department has made some steps toward reform, but added that it is "still early in the process" (Payne, Sacramento Bee, 11/29).
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