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Audit Suggests Division of Professional Licensure Improve Oversight of Criminal and Sex Offender Background Checks for Applicants 

BostonAccording to an audit released today by the Office of State Auditor Suzanne M. Bump (OSA), the Division of Professional Licensure (DPL), now referred to as the Division of Occupational Licensure, has for years been unable to determine whether its boards and commissions were performing Criminal Offender Record Information (CORI) and Sex Offender Record Information (SORI) checks before professional licenses were issued. The inadequacy and unreliability of DPL’s data meant that neither the agency nor the OSA auditors could determine how many professionals were licensed without undergoing required background checks.

Additionally, although CORI’s are not required for all job applicants under agency procedures, the audit recommends that DPL issue guidance for its boards to help them determine whether their licensees serve vulnerable populations and therefore should be subject to CORI checks. DPL conducts SORI checks for all applicants, but does not perform CORI’s for all the licenses it has been overseeing.

“DPL’s failure to ensure criminal background checks were being conducted by its boards and commissions is a glaring failure in administration, one which the agency has now acknowledged. Now that DPL is in the process of an organizational overhaul, the time is ripe to address deficiencies in the licensure and background check process,” Bump said of the audit. “While this is not the first time that our office has identified the need for corrective action at DPL, it is my hope that our recommendations from this audit are acted upon swiftly to ensure the safety of patrons and residents.”

The audit released today examined the period of July 1, 2017 through March 31, 2020 and relied on information from DPL’s two software programs, Acela and MyLicense Office (MLO). These programs, which have been utilized for DPL’s 28 boards and its Office of Public Safety and Inspections (OPSI), respectively, are intended to track license applications, license renewals, CORI and SORI checks. During the audit period, for 67 percent of the 61,720 individuals that were granted licenses, CORI information was not available; SORI information was not available for 25,918 individuals (42 percent). While the Office of Public Safety and Inspections (OPSI) requires CORI checks of applications for 9 of its 85 license types, OPSI issued 31,740 licenses during the audit period, 99 percent of which had no CORI information available.

In addition to enforcing existing requirements for CORI and SORI checks, the audit makes other significant recommendations. One is that DPL provide guidance to boards and commissions which currently do not have background check rules in assessing whether their licensees pose a risk to vulnerable populations and, therefore should be background checked before being licensed. The second is that background checks be conducted upon license renewal, not just at license issuance.

DPL is responsible for oversight of 28 boards of registration, as well as the Office of Public Safety and Inspections and the Office of Private Occupational School Education. Collectively, DPL boards and offices license and regulate more than 580,000 individuals, businesses, and schools to engage over 150 trades and professions. During fiscal year 2019, DPL generated more than $53 million in revenue for the Commonwealth from licensing fees and other sources.

The full audit report is available here.