In its rush to reply to the coronavirus pandemic, the Oklahoma State Division of Well being has paid out greater than $ 20.4 million for protecting gear it has no historical past of, in keeping with a report by the state auditor.
The purchases had been a part of 62 wired funds the well being ministry made final yr for protecting gear that totaled practically $ 37 million, in keeping with a routine statewide audit.
The Oklahoma state auditor and inspector launched the report Tuesday evening.
The auditor’s report additionally discovered that the Division of Well being had mistakenly paid a provider $ 32,232 twice and the funds weren’t returned by December 11.
About $ 18.8 million in purchases went unreported to the state’s accounting system in fiscal 2020, which ended June 30. Eight funds totaling over $ 11.2 million had been recorded within the state system after fiscal year-end, and 10 funds totaling over $ 7.6 million had not been recorded as of September 30 .
In an emailed assertion to The Frontier, Well being Commissioner Dr Lance Frye stated the company would endeavor to reply to the audit findings, which cowl “choices made beneath a earlier administration. “.
Governor Kevin Stitt appointed Frye in late Could after former well being commissioner Gary Cox stepped down as a result of lawmakers selected to not maintain a listening to to verify his appointment.
The “audit findings are essential as we proceed to assessment all of our company’s processes to make sure our monetary transactions are safe, correctly documented and clear – now and sooner or later,” Frye wrote. “OSDH is doing a radical inner audit assessment, in addition to forensic evaluation of our PPE procurement and monetary information.”
Frye didn’t reply to The Frontier’s query about lacking documentation for $ 20.4 million in protecting gear.
“We can reply to all inquiries on particular features of the audit as quickly because the assessment is full,” Frye wrote.
In an emailed assertion to The Frontier, Stitt stated the state “has made the well being and lives of the Oklahomans initially by turning each stone” to safe protecting tools for healthcare employees. and first responders throughout the world provide scarcity.
“I admire Auditor Byrd’s report and believe that the Oklahoma State Division of Well being will proceed to implement its findings and use the teachings realized to proceed to be clear,” Stitt stated. .
In a response to the report, the Division of Well being wrote that it typically doesn’t use wire switch funds and in addition admitted that “errors had been made”.
“The Oklahoma State Division of Well being has change into a serious responder to the COVID-19 pandemic which has affected many areas of the company, together with the Division of Monetary Companies,” wrote company in a response included within the audit. “Responding in a well timed and applicable method within the early days of the pandemic required firms to regulate their processes.”
The company has since applied fee procedures for wire transfers to keep away from future errors, he stated.
Because the state’s well being division scrambled to safe face masks, gloves and different life-saving gear in response to the pandemic, the company paid some distributors earlier than the state obtained tools.
Stitt’s government order final March suspended lots of the necessities of the traditional buying course of, reminiscent of securing aggressive provides and buying by means of most popular state suppliers so businesses can shortly reply to wants. urgently wanted in private protecting tools and different tools.
Though the state has approved the Oklahoma State Division of Well being to make advance funds for private protecting tools, it “has not denied the company’s accountability to file expenditure within the state accounting system, ”the report says.
“It appears that evidently given the weird circumstances of utilizing funds from the clearing account and the push to make, and in some instances prepay for obligatory purchases, OSDH didn’t file the bills within the accounting system. state, ”the report stated.
For the reason that Division of Well being didn’t report $ 18.87 million in wire switch funds to the state’s accounting system by year-end, the company underestimated its spending. The Workplace of Administration and Enterprise Companies has been requested to appropriate the anomaly, in keeping with the report.
The auditor’s report beneficial that the Division of Well being assessment all of its wire switch funds to make sure it was receiving all of its provides or enlist Oklahoma Legal professional Common Mike Hunter to hunt reimbursement of suppliers. Sellers should additionally present paperwork to the company previous to fee.
In its response to the auditor’s report, the well being division stated it was now not posting a bond to ensure orders for protecting tools, which was an “important” apply as the fabric was in excessive demand. Final yr.
Final yr, states rushed to acquire private protecting tools and different supplies to combat the pandemic. Many states have needed to compete with different businesses and the federal authorities for scarcity of medical tools.
“The Oklahoma State Division of Well being is at present working with the Oklahoma Legal professional Common to obtain gadgets bought or receive a refund,” the company’s response reads.
The Oklahoma legal professional normal’s workplace has beforehand been tasked with making an attempt to return a $ 2 million stockpile of state-bought hydroxychloroquine final yr after former President Donald Trump touted its use as a remedy of the coronavirus.
In January, Hunter filed a lawsuit in opposition to a Tulsa piano bar proprietor on behalf of the Division of Well being, asking for greater than $ 1.8 million for N95 masks, because the state’s claims didn’t by no means been delivered. This case is pending.
Hunter requested an investigative audit in April 2020 into the Division of Well being’s spending on state funds after media revealed the steps the Division of Well being had taken to obtain N95 masks and d ‘different protecting tools throughout the pandemic. Critics referred to as the company’s strategies dangerous.
Oklahoman reported final yr that well being officers moved ahead with a $ 9.5 million buy of N95 masks from an organization they knew was beneath FBI investigation.
A spokesperson for the Oklahoma state auditor and inspector stated the investigative audit was ongoing.