Arizona Department of Economic Security audit required every 10 years, it's been 15

More than 200,000 Arizonans are receiving unemployment insurance benefits as of Wednesday, June 17th, due to layoffs during the coronavirus pandemic.

Many had to wait weeks and weeks while the state tackled backlogs and program failures because of the rush of applications. As a result, a state representative is demanding a new audit of the state's unemployment system, which is actually long overdue.

Through a series of public records requests, it was uncovered that the last performance audit of the Department of Economic Security (DES) happened all the way back in 2005.

Arizona Rep. Mitzi Epstein says the findings are eye-opening. An audit of the department is required by state law every 10 years, she says.

The department says it welcomes any audit and doesn't know why one hasn’t been conducted, but will consider an internal audit now.

As the stay-at-home order began, Arizona’s unemployment insurance program seized under the weight of hundreds of thousands of applications. The stay-at-home order has been expired for weeks now.

RELATED: Use a desktop, not a smart phone to file for unemployment in Arizona, DES recommends

“A 15-year gap is very eye-opening. I certainly never expected that that was what I was going to find out," she said.

She's on the joint legislative audit committee, and said she’s working with other legislators to file a bill demanding a new performance audit of the program.

“With an audit, you can find out where are the cracks in the floor. How are the trains all running along very smoothly and where are the great big boulders in the track. That’s what an audit can help you figure out," she explained.

It’s unclear why a performance audit wasn’t conducted sooner.

RELATED: Gov. Ducey names new Arizona Department of Economic Security director

DES says the program has undergone yearly single audits and regular Department of Labor audits, but Epstein says they are quite limited compared to a performance audit.

Epstein pointed to a FOX 10 report of when a backlog emerged because the state required applicants fax or mail documents. DES fixed the issue a week after the report.

RELATED: Controversy over DES Fraud Prevention Team as COVID-19 crisis continues

Epstein says an audit may have caught that potential issue. She also stressed DES has worked hard to fix the issues since March.

“The people working there now are doing everything they can to address the situation and my hats off to them for working so hard," she said.

In a statement, DES said, "This Administration fulfills the state’s responsibilities within the quality control function of the Federal-State unemployment compensation system."

For more coverage on unemployment-related issues in Arizona, click here.