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Auditor Update on Utility Regulator Cites Progress, Notes Delay

The California Public Utilities Commission has been working to follow state Auditor Elaine Howle’s technology recommendations since 2015, and the auditor’s latest update, published this week, reports that it’s still a work in progress.

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The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) has responded to a state audit of its technology recovery plans, reporting progress in a key area but estimating that it will need an additional year to finish the task.
Elaine Howle California auditor
Elaine Howle, California's auditor, says resistance to efforts to audit performance has been "chilling."
(AP)

The office of State Auditor Elaine Howle first reported in April 2015 on the utility regulator in a report titled, It Needs to Improve the Quality of Its Consumer Complaint Data and the Controls Over Its Information Systems. The CPUC has responded with periodic progress reports to the auditor, with the latest coming last month.

One of the auditor’s tech-related recommendations to CPUC was: “The commission should conduct regular tests and exercises to assess the sufficiency of the revised recovery plan and refine the plan when necessary.”

One year ago, CPUC told the auditor that it was “in the process of relocating Information System resources to California Department of Technology data center” and that “once this move is completed CPUC will update technology recovery plan and schedule exercises to test the effectiveness of the updated plans.”

CPUC gave an estimated completion date of Dec. 31, 2021, for that move to the state’s Gold Camp Data Center.

In its update to the auditor last month, the commission said it “has migrated all systems to Gold Camp Data Center using new updated hardware, including storage and servers.”

It adds: “Business Impact Analysis (BIA) is in progress to identify Mission Essential Functions (MEF). Determination of MEFs will outline Mission Critical Systems. Once Mission Essential Systems are identified CPUC will update Technology recovery plans and will develop process to test effectiveness of technology recovery plans.”

CPUC also says that rather than a completion date of next month, it now anticipates completion by Dec. 31, 2022. Based on that update, the auditor characterized the project as “partially implemented.”

Howle, who has been the state auditor for 16 years, has announced her plans to retire at the end of 2021. The president of the CPUC, Marybel Batjer, is also leaving her post at the end of the year.
Dennis Noone is Managing Editor of Techwire. He is a career journalist, having worked as a reporter and editor at small-town newspapers and major metropolitan dailies in California, Nevada, Texas and Virginia, including as an editor with USA Today in Washington, D.C. He lives in the Northern California foothills.