The Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA) identifies and quantifies the health risks of chemicals in the environment. It provides these assessments, along with its recommendations for pollutant standards and health and safety regulations, to the boards and departments in the California Environmental Protection Agency (Cal-EPA) and to other state and local agencies. The OEHHA also provides scientific support to environmental regulatory agencies.
The budget requests $17.1 million for support of OEHHA in 2000-01. This is an increase of $3.2 million, or 23 percent, above estimated current-year expenditures. Major budget proposals include funds to evaluate the health and environmental risks (1) faced by children ($1.5 million) and (2) posed by motor vehicle fuel ($803,000).
Our review of the administrative budget of the Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment finds that the office's expenditures and staffing for administration are justified. However, the Legislature's oversight of the office's budget is made difficult by the lack of information about administration in the Governor's budget display. We recommend that the Legislature adopt supplemental report language directing that this information be provided in future years.
Analyst Directed to Review OEHHA's Administrative Expenditures. During budget hearings last year, the Legislature expressed concern about the relatively high proportion of OEHHA's budget that is for administration compared to other Cal-EPA departments. The Legislature directed the Legislative Analyst to review OEHHA's administrative budget as part of its analysis of the Governor's 2000-01 budget proposal. Specifically, we were asked to evaluate (1) the appropriateness of the size of the office's administrative budget and (2) the impact of any redirection of resources to the office's administrative budget from other programs within the office.
OEHHA's Administrative Budget Over Time. The budget proposes $2.6 million and 30 positions for OEHHA's director's office and administrative services division in 2000-01. In general, these administrative positions include staff dealing with budgets, accounting, personnel, and information technology.
As shown in Figure 1, the office's funding and staffing levels for administration have remained relatively stable over the past several years. However, the proportion of OEHHA's budget devoted to administration has declined in recent years. For example, in 1996-97, about 25 percent of OEHHA's expenditures and 20 percent of its staff positions were for administration. As proposed for the budget year, about 15 percent of the office's expenditures and 17 percent of its staff positions are for administration. This decline in proportion is because in recent years, the office's program activities have expanded due to new statutory responsibilities, while administrative expenditures and staffing have remained stable.
|Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment
Administrative Expenditures and Positions
|1995-96 Through 2000-01
(Dollars in Millions)
|a Governor's budget proposal.|
Administrative Staffing Levels Not High Relative to Similarly Sized Departments. We compared OEHHA's administrative staffing levels with those of other state departments with similar total staffing levels. While it is reasonable to expect that departmental administrative budgets will vary somewhat depending on statutory missions and responsibilities, this comparison can at least suggest whether or not OEHHA's administrative budget is "out of line" with other departments. As shown in Figure 2, the proportion of OEHHA's total staffing that goes to administration is not higher than similarly sized departments and, in fact, is significantly lower in most cases.
|Administrative Staffing Levels of
Similarly Sized Departments
Percentage of Total
|Criminal Justice Planning||5||49||54||36%|
It is when OEHHA is compared to much larger departments that its administrative budget may appear to be relatively high. In this regard, all other Cal-EPA boards and departments are significantly larger in terms of total staffing than OEHHA. For example, with total current-year expenditures of $517 million and 1,586 positions, the State Water Resources Control Board's administrative expenditures and positions represent only about 3 percent and 12 percent, respectively, of the board's total expenditures and positions. These differences from OEHHA's situation mostly reflect the "economies of scale" in the administration of state departments.
Office Has Provided Workload Justification for its Administrative Positions. For 2000-01, the office proposes (1) 13 positions in its executive office, including five clerical staff and (2) 17 administrative staff positions, including an ombudsman to respond to public inquiries and set up public workshops about OEHHA programs. Based on workload justification provided by the office for the 30 positions, we find that the office's administrative budget is of an appropriate size in light of the overall size of the office (in terms of total staff and expenditures) and the office's statutory responsibilities.
Redirection of Staff to Administration Has Not Had Major Impact on Technical Programs. Our review also finds that over the past seven years, the office has redirected a total of 8.5 positions from technical programs to administration. Because the employees were redirected from five different program areas over a period of several years, it appears that there has not been a significant adverse impact on the technical programs from where these employees were redirected.
Legislature's Oversight Could Be Enhanced by Changing Governor's Budget Display. Unlike most other state departments, the current Governor's budget does not display the expenditures and positions for administration for OEHHA. We think that this makes it difficult for the Legislature to identify the office's administrative expenditures and positions, assess their appropriateness, and hold the office accountable. Accordingly, we recommend that the Legislature adopt the following supplemental report language to provide more detailed expenditure and staffing information in the budget display in future years:
In order for the Legislature to better evaluate the budget of the Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment, it is the intent of the Legislature that beginning with the 2001-02 budget, the Governor's budget display administration as a program element for the office.