Audits Division – Team Analyzez Huge Amount Of Data, Spots Anomalies, and Protects Yaxpayer Dollars
The Audits Division provides oversight of public spending. It oversees state agency compliance with accounting rules and the standards for audits of local governments, and reports on the performance of state departments.
A lot of the division’s time is spent getting data, analyzing it, and doing the resulting audit work. Jamie Ralls, audit manager, and her team manage audits of huge programs, with large-scale data systems and many millions of records, across programs like Medicaid, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), and foster care.
They visit multiple departments, agencies, and service providers each year, conducting interviews and trying to identify and solve the problems that might result in fraud, waste, and abuse.
When Jamie started with the division, they were already using ACL Analytics (which became part of Galvanize’s HighBond platform in 2019). Jamie taught herself how to use the software and hasn’t looked back.
“I started in the Audits Division 17 years ago, back when Galvanize was ACL. And I was very fortunate when I started my career—my first audit, I was told to ‘dabble’ in some data, use ACL, and try and figure it out. So, I self-taught myself back then and I’ve been using it ever since on every audit I can,” Jamie said.
The Oregon Secretary of State makes data analysis and audit technologies a core component of its audit work. The division has used data analytics in partnership with the Department of Health and Human Services and the FBI to identify fraud within SNAP.
This focus on analytics will continue to expand through 2020–21 and beyond, as the Audits Division has established an internal audit team specifically focused on maximizing data analytics audit methodologies.
The organization has seen tremendous value from Galvanize over the past decades, saving taxpayer dollars, and analyzing enormous data sets.
“Being able to analyze the data and see anomalies, I’ve been able to find fraud and you know, you can’t do that with other programs. You can spend an hour or two and find literally millions of dollars in a large state program of waste, fraud, and inefficiencies,” Jamie said.
But it’s not just about finding fraud and analyzing data during audits—they also support other Oregon government organizations, making recommendations for how agencies and departments can use technology to improve their processes.
“We see different agencies using spreadsheets, trying to match records together, until they reach limitations. So, we come in, match the records together for them and show them what they can achieve. There’s just no way we could look at millions of records and match it to another dataset that large without it,” Jamie said.
Ian Green, principal auditor, provides a clear example of how they’ve been able to use Galvanize technology to solve this exact problem. “In one audit—I was looking at 200 million Medicaid claims—and it’s impossible to look at that many data points manually.”
Jamie and Ian have worked on food-stamp fraud cases and have found the data analytics capabilities invaluable in quickly identifying fraud. While working on one audit, they found a merchant that was connected to a Mexican drug cartel. They took their evidence to the FBI and the USDA, who formed a task force to help take down the fraudulent merchants who had been operating throughout the state.
“Protecting taxpayer dollars is probably our key mission. Our role is to be transparent and accountable and ensure the wise use of public resources, and Galvanize helps us do that work and develop impactful findings,” Ian said.
And both of them have found Galvanize to be a great support over the years—whatever problem they may be experiencing, or solution they may be chasing.
“Galvanize has been great. There is unlimited support. Whenever I can’t figure something out that I’m trying to do with the data, I can make a phone call. There’s always someone there to help me,” Jamie said.