How certain is UCSD that its employees and volunteers aren't ex-convicts? Not as sure as it should be, according to a report by the school's audit and management services department critical of lapses in university background checks.
"The University conducts background checks to promote a safe work environment, protect organizational assets, and ensure that individuals selected are the best and most qualified employees," notes the document.
"The objective of our review," according to the report, "was to evaluate the campus use of background checks as a mechanism to mitigate the risk of hiring candidates with a criminal past not disclosed in the application process, and to evaluate the use of background checks in screening volunteers.
"For example, someone with extensive authority to commit financial resources of the University, such as controllers or financial managers, should be required to complete a criminal background check.
"If a criminal conviction is reported and deemed to be relevant to the candidate’s prospective job responsibilities, the results are reported to the hiring department. It is ultimately the hiring department’s decision as to whether or not a candidate will be hired based on the results of the criminal background check."
But no matter how vital, security reviews have been slipping through the cracks, the audit found.
In their report, notably lacking in detailed specifics, university auditors said that during 2012 and 2013, "background checks were not always completed even when [Human Resources] department contacts indicated that one was required."
The problem is particularly acute regarding the 2800 or so volunteers who work at UCSD each year, according to the document, dated June 30.
"Some departments, such as Campus Recreation and Birch Aquarium, have implemented processes to ensure that volunteers performing certain duties complete a criminal background check prior to appointment," the audit says.
"However, because system-wide policies and local implementing procedures do not require departments to consider background checks for volunteers, it is likely that volunteers are performing duties commensurate with critical positions without undergoing criminal background checks."
The cost of looking into the criminal past of its workers varies, according to the report.
"The campus works with two types of agencies for criminal background checks: Department of Justice and Kroll. Kroll is a consumer reporting agency that provides a variety of background check services in addition to criminal background checks."
Nationwide Justice Department checks, which include the FBI database, cost $68 each for "all arrests and criminal convictions." In addition, "UCSD also receives notification of arrests subsequent to hire." California-only checks are $50.
Kroll charges $11 per county for criminal-record searches and $12 for each state, with results containing "Criminal convictions dating back seven years."
The problem of bad employees has become so severe that the University of California as a whole is "Considering policy revisions that would require that all staff recruitments across the UC system complete a criminal background or National Sex Offender Registry check as part of the hiring process, regardless of job responsibilities," the audit says.
A draft of the new regulations is expected to be released this fall.
Under the title "management corrective action," the audit notes that the university's Human Resources department has promised to "continue to evaluate the use of criminal background checks and the National Sex Offender Registry for screening volunteers."