CASF criticised for lack of budget transparency

by Steve Blum • , ,

DRA makes a graphic point.

The only formal objection to next year’s draft budget for California Advanced Services Fund (CASF) prepared by California Public Utilities Commission staff has come from, well, CPUC staff. The division of ratepayer advocates, which functions as an in-house watchdog or gadfly, depending on your point of view, is recommending that the commission reject the request in its present form.

DRA doesn’t particularly object to the budget numbers, rather it wants more justification…

As in previous comments to the Commission on the issue of the CASF, DRA continues to support greater transparency in the CASF budgeting and expenditure process. Consistent with this recommendation, DRA recommends the Commission require greater detail for the proposed $3.439 million in CASF administrative costs including a a detailed explanation for the unexplained increase of $795,800 for Audit Fees and $1.5M for Broadband Mapping Contracts.

Prior to authorizing a 41% budget increase, the Commission should require greater detail for the categories primarily responsible for the increase — Audit Fees, Broadband Mapping, and Consortia Grants.

The DRA critique points out that both audits and the mapping program are good things, but there’s no breakout of how the money would be spent or, in the case of the audit expense, why the extra money is needed.

The original justification for the mapping money was that federal funding for the program is running out. And there’s an implication that the overall increase in administrative costs is due to the expected approval of a couple dozen new CASF projects in the coming months. But no line item detail was offered, and that’s what DRA wants.

Commissioners are scheduled to vote on the CASF budget at next week’s meeting. Before then, expect to see more detail added to the request in response to DRA’s comments.