Taxpayer-funded programs to help the unemployed find new jobs traditionally have been among the most inefficient, corrupt initiatives in government – and that is saying a lot.
While no one is talking about corruption in Ohio worker training programs, Gov. John Kasich and legislators should be asking pointed questions about efficiency.
A report by state Auditor Dave Yost has uncovered troubling differences in how job training programs spend taxpayers’ money.
Such programs provide training to laid-off workers seeking new skills, help them locate career opportunities and provide other types of support.
To their credit, officials in the Governor’s Office of Workforce Transformation asked Yost to conduct the audit. They wanted to know how the state’s Workforce Investment Act network spends money. It uses 90 centers throughout the state, with about $80 million in federal funds.
Yost’s auditors examined 20 work force development areas. One, investigators learned, spends about 97 percent of its funding on direct services to clients. But some others devote less than half their resources to assisting clients. One spent just 41 percent of the money available on direct services.
“A variation of 56 percentage points is just too much,” Yost commented of the difference.
Though government agencies often spend resources differently – depending, for example, on what types of worker training are needed in a particular area – Yost is right. There simply is no reasonable explanation for the level of variations his auditors discovered.
Officials at the state Department of Job and Family Services, which oversees the programs, have said they will use Yost’s information to make improvements. Let’s hope so.
But Ohioans should not take government’s word that it has taken care of the problems. They should insist that within a year or so, Yost’s auditors take another look at the job training and counseling programs.
If major discrepancies still exist in how money is being spent, it may be time to call in investigators from Attorney General Mike DeWine’s office.