Gov. Mary Fallin has asked state Auditor and Inspector Gary Jones to audit the Oklahoma Corrections Department and assess whether the department's current structure “is in the best interests of the taxpayers of Oklahoma.”
“I hereby request that your office conduct an investigatory, operational and performance audit of the Oklahoma Department of Corrections,” Fallin said in a letter received Monday by the auditor.
The state auditor said it is routine for the governor to request an audit during a change in leadership at a state agency.
Recent events surrounding the Corrections Department have been anything but routine.
Justin Jones announced his resignation as executive director of the department three weeks ago after the governor expressed shaken confidence in his leadership.
Fallin questioned the fiscal management of the agency after learning that corrections staff members had been urgently requesting a $6.4 million supplemental appropriation at a time when it had about $22 million in three agency revolving funds.
Corrections officials then withdrew their supplemental funding request. The Oklahoman subsequently disclosed that corrections officials had grossly underreported the amount of cash held in two key agency revolving funds to Fallin as she was preparing her budget recommendations.
Fallin's audit request does not specifically ask the state auditor to look into those issues.
It does, however, ask the auditor to assess the current structure of the department and review a 2007 audit of the Corrections Department by Florida-based MGT of America and determine whether the agency implemented any of its recommendations.
One recommendation of the 2007 audit was that the board that oversees the Corrections Department be abolished or reduced to an advisory role. MGT auditors recommended that the department be made a cabinet-level agency with a director appointed by the governor.
Oklahomans last November approved a similar change of governance of the state Department of Human Services when they voted to abolish that agency's governing board and replace it with advisory panels. The DHS director now reports to the governor.
Alex Weintz, communications director for the governor, cautioned against placing too much emphasis on the change in Corrections Department governance recommendation from the MGT audit.
“That's one of 141 recommendations in that 2007 audit, and like most of those recommendations, the governor hasn't taken a position on it,” Weintz said. “We are asking for a new audit to take a fresh look at those recommendations, see which are still relevant and productive, and will withhold further comment until that new audit report is released.”
The 2007 audit cost $844,000. Among other things, it said the Corrections Department needed more funding and more employees and suggested that the governor be removed from the pardon and parole process.
Oklahomans voted in November to remove the governor from the parole process for nonviolent offenders — a move that auditors said would save the state money by decreasing growth in the prison population.
Other areas the governor asked the state auditor to examine include:
• The efficiency and effectiveness of management.
• The efficiency and effectiveness of the oversight of the department's operations.
• The reasonableness of the department's expenditures.
• The expenditures of the department's administration for compliance with appropriate state statutes and regulations.
The Corrections Department will pay for the audit.
We are asking for a new audit to take a fresh look at those recommendations, see which are still relevant and productive, and will withhold further comment until that new audit report is released.”
Communications director for Gov. Mary Fallin