State audit criticizes Oklahoma City-County Health Department fiscal operations

Sloppy bookkeeping and management procedures at the Oklahoma City-County Health Department is being blamed for embezzlement of money, improper use of purchase cards and dual employment, according to a state audit released Friday.
BY MICHAEL MCNUTT mmcnutt@opubco.com Modified: August 2, 2013 at 10:15 pm •  Published: August 3, 2013
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Sloppy bookkeeping and management procedures at the Oklahoma City-County Health Department is being blamed for embezzlement of money, improper use of purchase cards and dual employment, according to a state audit released Friday.

The report by the state Auditor and Inspector's office also faulted the agency for time sheet inconsistencies and for allowing health department employees to work for a nonprofit health group housed in the department's headquarters, 921 NE 23.

The report reviewed the health department's financial records for the fiscal year that ended June 30, 2012.

Auditors recommended the health department's management develop better internal controls.

Gary Cox, the health department's director, said his department was already aware of most of the problems and corrections have been or are being made.

Cox said the employee who the audit says embezzled nearly $3,000 from the Women, Infants and Children program has been terminated, and that the information has been turned over to the U.S. attorney's office for prosecution.

The audit alleges the employee stole and cashed 196 program vouchers dating back at least to November 2011.

Purchase card use

The audit also reviewed all purchase card transactions and found 25 percent of them exceeded the $250 spending limit and did not get required approval. The transactions included $357 for meals for two retirement parties; $10,933 for a food and water pantry for employees; $1,038 for two employees to go to a conference in Las Vegas; and a $20 gift card for a volunteer who was retiring.

“Controls are not being followed … which has led to numerous unallowable purchases,” the audit states.

Officials at the health department, which is funded mostly by Oklahoma County property taxes, federal grants and contracts with the state health and mental health and substance abuse services departments, acknowledged that procedures were not followed in all instances, the audit states. They said the employee reimbursed the department $20 for the volunteer's retirement gift.

“We need to look at our policies and procedures and look for ways to improve the control of the use of the P-cards,” Cox said. “We have no evidence that there was anything unlawful about the use of those cards, but we certainly want to take a look at how we can improve record keeping.”