BOSTON, MA — Auditor Suzanne M. Bump today is calling on the Office of Court Interpreter Services (OCIS) to improve its payment processes, particularly for per diem court interpreters. Bump’s recommendations come as part of an audit of OCIS, which found expenditures were made without ensuring that OCIS obtained and verified all the necessary documentation before paying per diem court interpreters.
“The Office of the Court Interpreter Services plays a critical role in ensuring equal access to justice under the law for individuals who are not proficient in English, or who are hard of hearing. However, they were not taking required steps to ensure payments for those services were properly made,” Bump said of the audit’s findings. “I encourage the Office to use this audit as a tool to improve its processes, and to ensure it is fulfilling its duties with accountability for taxpayer dollars.”
The audit found that OCIS made payments to per diem court interpreters without records to confirm that services that it paid for were actually provided. Additionally, the audit showed that OCIS did not keep accurate and up-to-date records of assignment schedules for per diem court interpreters. Finally, the audit found that OCIS did not require that the Massachusetts Commission for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing (MCDHH) provide reports showing how often it provided interpretive services for people who are deaf or hard of hearing on behalf of OCIS; this deficiency prevented OCIS from ensuring proper payments were made for these services.
Among other recommendations, Bump encouraged the OCIS to update its policies to reflect the proper approval processes for documentation of services by per diem court interpreters, and improve its scheduling processes to reflect the high volume of last-minute request for court interpreters.
Additionally, Bump noted that OCIS paid per diem court interpreters for a significant amount of time they spent waiting at court locations to interpret. A review of a sample of these payments found that 46 percent of the time for which per diem court interpreters were paid was for time spent waiting to interpret. Bump recommended that OCIS review its policies to limit the amount of time interpreters can be paid when they are not actually interpreting, in a manner similar to the way other professionals, such as lawyers and stenographers are paid for wait time.
Under Massachusetts law, people who have limited English proficiency or are hard of hearing have the right to the assistance of a qualified interpreter during legal proceedings. The OCIS is the office tasked with coordinating and providing these services. The audit looked at certain activities of this office from July 1, 2013 through May 31, 2015.
The audit is attached.