A June 2024 report from the Multnomah County Auditor shows that the Joint Office of Homeless Services is meeting or exceeding expectations in all areas of contract monitoring and invoice processing.

The audit focused on contract monitoring conducted by the Joint Office of Homeless Services and other County departments.. The auditor’s office tested invoice payments made to a sample of providers, looked for evidence of monitoring conducted by county staff, and surveyed the providers whose contracts were selected for testing.

According to the newly released audit report, the Joint Office of Homeless Services met or exceeded expectations when it comes to contract monitoring. The Auditor stated that, “Joint Office of Homeless Services staff conducted formal monitoring activities, documented them, and applied them consistently. The Joint Office of Homeless Services has department-level contract performance monitoring policies in place.”

These monitoring measures include:

  • Internal tracking tools that capture invoice details, contract status, and communications with providers, 
  • Annual risk assessments with results documented in writing, 
  • Annual performance reviews with results provided to providers,
  • On-site monitoring when necessary, with results communicated in writing to providers.

The Auditor found that the Joint Office more consistently performed the full range of contract monitoring functions than other County Departments reviewed in this audit.

The June 2024 audit findings also follow a March 2024 report by the Department of County Management on Joint Office of Homeless Services contracting practices. The Joint Office worked with the Department of County Management to implement a year-long Strategic Contract Administration Assessment Pilot, and successfully implemented processes to ensure timely payment, support predictability and ensure consistency of information across partners. 

The final report from that pilot found that the Joint Office has successfully implemented processes to ensure timely payment, support predictability and ensure consistency of information across partners. According to the report, the “JOHS developed and implemented a significant suite of specific policies, tools, and trainings within the past year. These have broadly covered important practices to ensure greater standardization in the approach used across the Department to administer contracts. While there are still items yet to come, the items planned for development will fill most gaps in their current approach.” Brian Smith, who authored the final report on the pilot project, said that he believes the Joint Office’s work to formalize its approach to contract administration could serve as a model across County departments.

That March 2024 report showed that over the past year, the Joint Office:

  • Developed 25+ policies/procedures and trackers to support consistent administration practices across all contractors
  • Built templates for key communications with providers
  • Improved internal review/approval processes
  • Provided clearer guidance on reimbursement requirements
  • Implemented ongoing internal audits of review trackers to identify areas for improved communication
  • Developed 8-part training series and Communities of Practice to ensure consistent training and ongoing development
  • Established regular Consistency and Quality Improvement efforts to ensure responsiveness to community and program needs

Following this year-long implementation of new contract monitoring processes at the Joint Office of Homeless Services, the JOHS now has in place a contract monitoring system that has been recommended by the Department of County Management as a model for contract management countywide.

In the coming Fiscal Year (2025), the Joint Office of Homeless Services has detailed plans for ensuring continued quality improvement, with a focus on three areas: contract monitoring, fiscal business practices and engagement.

Among the practices which will be implemented and maintained in FY2025:

  • Regular reviews and updates to all processes and procedures
  • Implementation of internal audit process for regular monitoring 
  • Working with Fiscal Department on development of advanced payment policy and developing workflow with actions/timelines
  • Exploring annual survey and listening sessions – internal and external
  • Working with the Contracting Equity Workgroup to support contracting with culturally specific provider organizations and using the evaluation framework to help shape our contract administration processes

The June 2024 audit is not a direct follow up to the 2023 County audit report on the Joint Office that described challenges in the department with contract management and communication with providers. The Joint Office had already begun implementing or had completed many of the 2023 audit’s recommendations when the 2024 audit was completed.

Contract monitoring is one of the core functions of the Joint Office of Homeless Services. The Joint Office contracts with more than 60 provider organizations who deliver the critical front-line services funded by the department. Monitoring those contracts includes tracking the performance of providers and evaluating outcomes, which helps ensure necessary services are being provided to our community in an effective way.

Contract monitoring is also key to ensuring that our providers are paid on time — which supports the work of the Joint Office in addressing longstanding workforce challenges in the homeless services sector (as outlined in the Joint Office’s 2023 wage study). This is essential for supporting the frontline workers who are doing the critical work of helping people move into housing, supporting people in shelter, conducting street outreach and more.