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Office of the Ig, Review of the Board of Prison Terms Interpretation Services Procedures, 2005

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OFFICE OF THE INSPECTOR GENERAL
MATTHEW L. CATE, INSPECTOR GENERAL

SPECIAL REVIEW
OF THE

BOARD OF PRISON TERMS
INTERPRETATION SERVICES PROCEDURES

MARCH 2005

STATE OF CALIFORNIA

OFFICE OF THE INSPECTOR GENERAL

PAGE 1

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

T

his report presents the results of a special review conducted by the Office of the
Inspector General of the procedures used by the Board of Prison Terms to govern
services provided by foreign language interpreters. The review was prompted by an
investigation by the Office of the Inspector General of a foreign language interpreter who was
found to have submitted 261 false claims to the Board of Prison Terms over a period of nearly
three years for services provided at parole revocation hearings. The investigation determined
that Board of Prison Terms failed to detect the fraud and paid the interpreter for false claims
totaling $11,862. The San Diego County District Attorney prosecuted the case and the
interpreter subsequently pleaded guilty to felony grand theft. She was sentenced to
community service, probation, and a 120-day suspended jail term and was also ordered to pay
full restitution.
In the course of the investigation and as a result of the special review, the Office of the
Inspector General identified a number of control deficiencies in the methods used by the
Board of Prison Terms to retain and pay for interpretation services. In particular, the Office of
the Inspector General found that the Board of Prison Terms retains foreign language
interpreters for parole hearings without fully specifying in writing the terms of the services to
be provided; pays for the services without verifying that the services were rendered; and fails
to make certain that invoices are not duplicates of invoices that have already been paid before
approving payment.
The Office of the Inspector General recommends that the Board of Prison Terms take the
following steps to correct the deficiencies:
•

Provide interpreters with confirmation letters specifying the terms and conditions of
the services to be provided for all hearings.

•

Require interpreters to bring the confirmation letter to the hearing.

•

Require a Board of Prison Terms representative to sign and date the confirmation
letter and return it to the interpreter at the completion of service.

•

Use electronic methods to systematically record, track, and monitor payments to
interpreters so as to detect duplicate claims.

•

Require interpeters to submit invoices within prescribed time limits specified in the
hearing confirmation letter.

OFFICE OF THE INSPECTOR GENERAL

PAGE 2

The Office of the Inspector General requests that the Board of Prison Terms respond within
45 days with a plan to address the deficiencies identified in this report. The response should
include a timeline for implementation.

OFFICE OF THE INSPECTOR GENERAL

PAGE 3

INTRODUCTION

T

his report presents the results of a special review conducted by the Office of the
Inspector General into the procedures used by the Board of Prison Terms to arrange
and pay for the services of foreign language interpreters. The review was conducted
pursuant to the Inspector General’s authority under section 6126 of the California Penal
Code.

The special review was prompted by an investigation performed by the Office of the Inspector
General of a case in which a foreign language interpreter was found to have submitted a large
number of fraudulent claims to the Board of Prison Terms for interpretation services provided
at parole revocation hearings. The investigation determined that between August 23, 2000 and
June 13, 2003, Estella Gaines submitted 261 false claims to the Board of Prison Terms, for
which she was paid $11,862. The Office of the Inspector General found that Gaines inflated
hours worked and travel expenses and also re-submitted and received payment for several
invoices for which she had already been paid months earlier. The case was settled by the San
Diego District Attorney in January 2005 with the defendant pleading guilty to a felony
violation of California Penal Code section 487(grand theft) and agreeing to pay full
restitution.
In the course of the investigation and subsequent special review, the Office of the Inspector
General identified a number of control weaknesses in the foreign language interpretation
services procedures that allowed the fraud to take place.
BACKGROUND
The Board of Prison Terms, California’s adult parole board, conducts almost 40,000 parole
hearings a year, including about 5,000 parole consideration hearings for “lifer” inmates
serving indeterminate sentences and about 44,000 parole revocation hearings to determine
whether parolees have violated parole conditions and should be returned to prison. The board
is also responsible for conducting certification, placement, and parole revocation hearings for
mentally disordered offenders and for helping to screen inmates for possible civil confinement
as sexually violent predators.
The board is comprised of nine commissioners, appointed by the Governor, who travel to the
state’s prisons conducting parole consideration hearings for “lifer” inmates. Deputy
commissioners, who are civil service employees, serve on hearing panels for indeterminate
sentence inmates and also conduct parole revocation hearings and hearings for mentally
disordered offenders and sexually violent predators.
In carrying out the responsibilities associated with parole hearing process, the Board of Prison
Terms frequently retains the services of foreign language interpreters, who work as private
vendors. In fiscal year 2003-04, the board provided interpreters for 911 parole hearings, with
board expenditures for foreign language interpeters totaling $360,000. The services were

OFFICE OF THE INSPECTOR GENERAL

PAGE 4

provided by 57 interpreters employed as vendors through the Board of Prison Terms
headquarters and through parole revocation units of the California Department of Corrections.

OBJECTIVES, SCOPE AND METHODOLOGY
In the investigation of Estella Gaines and the subsequent special review of the procedures
used by the Board of Prison Terms to obtain and pay for foreign language interpretation
services, the Office of the Inspector General carried out the following procedures:
•

Interviewed Board of Prison Terms personnel responsible for soliciting and scheduling
interpreters for hearings to gain an understanding of applicable policies and procedures.
Obtained sample documents.

•

Interviewed Board of Prison Terms personnel responsible for reviewing interpreter
invoices and authorizing payment to examine controls for processing invoices and
verifying services rendered.

•

Reviewed and analyzed invoices submitted by Estella Gaines for the period August 23,
2000 through June 13, 2003.

•

Reviewed visitor registers for the Richard J. Donovan Correctional Facility for the period
August 23, 2000 through June 13, 2003 to verify the times Gaines was present at the
institution.

•

Reviewed Board of Prison Terms hearing records (BPT Form 1103) to reconcile the
records against the hearings cited in the invoices submitted by Gaines.

•

Interviewed personnel from the Chula Vista Parole Revocation Unit responsible for
scheduling interpreters for hearings in Imperial County and San Diego County.

•

Interviewed foreign language interpreters from Imperial County and San Diego County
about their understanding of procedures for providing interpretation services to the Board
of Prison Terms.

•

Summarized and forwarded the analysis of the fraudulent billings by Gaines to the San
Diego County District Attorney.

OFFICE OF THE INSPECTOR GENERAL

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FINDING 1
The Office of the Inspector General found that the Board of Prison Terms does not
specify in writing the terms and conditions of interpretation services to be provided.
The Office of the Inspector General found that the Board of Prison Terms does not require
terms and conditions of service to be defined in writing before interpretation services are
provided. In the northern part of the state, 1 the Board of Prison Terms schedules parole
revocation hearings and sends confirmation letters to interpreters, but the letters do not fully
cover the terms and conditions of service. While the letters include the inmate’s name and the
date, time, and location of the hearing, they do not address the board’s cancellation policy or
the specifics of travel reimbursement.
In the southern part of the state,2 the Board of Prison Terms has delegated responsibility for
scheduling hearings to Department of Corrections parole revocation units. The Office of the
Inspector General found that the parole revocation unit visited during this review does not
provide interpreters with written terms and conditions of service when scheduling hearings,
but rather simply contacts the interpreter by telephone.
As a result of the lack of clearly defined terms and conditions of service, the parole revocation
unit and the Board of Prison Terms provided the Office of the Inspector General with
conflicting information about authorized reimbursements: The parole revocation unit staff
said travel reimbursement was not allowed for the Richard J. Donovan Correctional Facility
in San Diego, while the Board of Prison Terms scheduling unit said that such travel
reimbursement is authorized.
FINDING 2
The Office of the Inspector General found that invoices for services are paid without
verification that the services were provided.
Interpreters submit invoices directly to the Board of Prison Terms headquarters in Sacramento
for payment, but the headquarters staff does not verify that the interpreter actually provided
the services before authorizing the payment. The staff person responsible for approving the
invoices told the Office of the Inspector General that she does not reconcile the invoices with
Board of Prison Terms hearing records or other documents, such as the hearing confirmation
letter, and that she rejects invoices only if the interpreter failed to sign the document or to
include an address or Social Security number.

1
2

Parole Regions I and II.
Parole Regions III and IV.

OFFICE OF THE INSPECTOR GENERAL

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FINDING 3
The Office of the Inspector General found that the Board of Prison Terms does not use
invoice records to detect fraud.
The Board of Prison Terms does not maintain copies of approved invoices or other records
that would enable it to detect fraudulent claims. Furthermore, although invoice data is
collected in an electronic spreadsheet and the data fields in the spreadsheet are adequate for
sorting invoices and detecting duplicate claims, the staff does not use the spreadsheet for that
purpose. Because of this deficiency, interpreter Estella Gaines, who was the subject of a
recent investigation by the Office of the Inspector General, received payment for duplicate
service invoices and duplicate travel time even though the improper claims could have been
detected with the use of the spreadsheet.
FINDING 4
The Office of the Inspector General found that interpreters are not required to submit
invoices within a prescribed time limit.
Because the Board of Prison Terms does not require interpreters to submit invoices within a
prescribed time limit, Ms. Gaines was able to file duplicate invoices as long as eight months
after the service date even though she had already received payment for the original invoices.

RECOMMENDATIONS
The Office of the Inspector General recommends that the Board of Prison Terms take
the following actions to address these deficiencies:
•

Provide interpreters with confirmation letters specifying the terms and
conditions of the services to be provided for all hearings The letters should
include at least the following information:
9
9
9
9
9
9
9
9

•

Inmate’s name and Department of Corrections identification number
Date, time, and location of the hearing
Type of hearing
Agreed-upon reimbursement rate
Travel reimbursement policy, including mileage rate allowed
Hearing cancellation policy
Invoice process and timeframes for invoice submittal and payment
Signature block and telephone number block to allow a Board of
PrisonTerms representative to verify services at completion of the hearing

Require interpreters to bring the confirmation letter to the hearing.

OFFICE OF THE INSPECTOR GENERAL

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•

Require a Board of Prison Terms representative to sign and date the
confirmation letter and return it to the interpreter at the completion of service.

•

Use electronic methods to systematically record, track, and monitor payments to
interpreters so as to detect duplicate claims.

•

Require interpreters to submit invoices within prescribed time limits specified in
the hearing confirmation letter.

OFFICE OF THE INSPECTOR GENERAL

PAGE 8

RESPONSE FROM THE BOARD OF PRISON TERMS

OFFICE OF THE INSPECTOR GENERAL

PAGE 9

 

 

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