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News Item
Program to prevent financial abuse wins innovation award

Posted: Friday, July 31, 2015

For the second time this month, the Minnesota Judicial Branch Conservator Account Auditing Program (CAAP) has been recognized for its innovative approach to combating financial abuse of elderly and vulnerable adults.
 
On Thursday, July 30, the University of Minnesota’s Humphrey School of Public Affairs presented CAAP a 2015 State Government Innovation Award at a ceremony held at the Minnesota History Center in St. Paul. Two weeks ago, the program earned nationwide recognition when it received the 2015 Justice Achievement Award from the National Association for Court Management.
 
CAAP is a nation-leading initiative to protect the assets of vulnerable individuals – persons with developmental disabilities, Alzheimer’s disease, dementia, or traumatic brain injuries – for whom the court has appointed a conservator to manage the individual’s financial affairs.

Jay Kiedrowski (left), Senior Fellow in the Public and Nonprofit Leadership Center at the Humphrey School of Public Affairs, presents Minnesota State Court Administrator Jeff Shorba (right) the award.

Minnesota State Court Administrator Jeff Shorba (right) accepts a 2015 State Government Innovation Award for the Minnesota Judicial Branch Conservator Account Auditing Program (CAAP) . The award was presented by Jay Kiedrowski (left), Senior Fellow in the Public and Nonprofit Leadership Center at the Humphrey School of Public Affairs, during a ceremony at the Minnesota History Center on Thursday, July 30.

Through CAAP, the Minnesota Judicial Branch has modernized and improved the way the state oversees the work of conservators. Before implementation of CAAP, conservator records were submitted to the court on paper, frequently accompanied by boxes of receipts and other documentation. This unwieldy process put a heavy burden on local district court staff responsible for overseeing the work of conservators. The CAAP program changed this process in two fundamental ways:
 
  • Conservators now submit transactions through an intuitive, online reporting system that has the look and feel of many popular financial applications. This system, called MyMNConservator, is the first and only online mandatory reporting tool for conservators in the country. It provides text and video support for conservators, automatically performs calculations, and provides ready access to expense and receipt details. Most importantly, the system contains built-in “red flag” logic that automatically reviews filed accounts and alerts auditors to possible errors, inconsistencies, or transactions that require further review.
  • The program also established a centralized conservator account auditing center, staffed by a team of trained experts who conduct compliance audits on conservator accounts from across the state. By centralizing this important auditing work, CAAP has led to stronger oversight of conservatorship accounts, while freeing up significant staff resources at the district court level.  
Today, CAAP is monitoring the assets of 4,600 vulnerable individuals in Minnesota, with assets totaling more than $720 million.
 
The stronger oversight provided by CAAP is already resulting in better protection of elderly and vulnerable adults. In nearly 14 percent of cases audited under the program, auditors have found concerns of loss, inappropriate loans or expenditures, or commingling of funds. Audit letters have frequently prompted repayment of funds from conservators. Hearings held on these audits have resulted in discharge of conservators, judgments and orders for repayment, and criminal prosecution and conviction.
 
This enhanced oversight is especially important considering recent statistics highlighting the growing amount of money lost through exploitation of elders in the United States. A 2011 MetLife Study estimated the national annual financial loss at $2.9 billion dollars – an increase of 12 percent over their findings in 2008. More recently, the 2015 True Link Report on Elder Financial Abuse estimated that seniors lose $36.48 billion each year to elder financial abuse.
 
“The Conservator Account Auditing Program has given Minnesota one of the strongest safeguards in the nation to protect vulnerable individuals from fraud and mismanagement by those entrusted to protect their financial assets,” said Minnesota Supreme Court Chief Justice Lorie S. Gildea. “We are honored to have this important program recognized both as an example of the innovation occurring in Minnesota state government, as well as a national leader in enhancing the administration of justice.”
 
The Minnesota State Government Innovation Awards are designed to recognize the great work of state government entities and encourage an environment of experimentation and innovation in Minnesota. More information about the award can be found at http://sgia.umn.edu/