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.”
He said additional employee training would be implemented.
Cox became the health department's director in 2009 after serving in a similar capacity for 14 years with the Tulsa Health Department; he previously worked 40 years at the Tulsa Health Department.
The audit said two Oklahoma City-County Health Department part-time employees were working full-time at the Tulsa Health Department. One was the Tulsa Health Department's human resources director.
On seven occasions, the other employee, a grant writer, used sick or other leave time at Tulsa and worked in Oklahoma City, the audit states. There were two occasions the employee reported working the same time at both locations.
Cox said both the Tulsa and Oklahoma City health departments allow flexible schedules and outside employment.
The audit reported that three employees were working for the nonprofit Partners in Public Health, Inc.; the health department sent an invoice to the nonprofit but it wasn't paid. Cox said the nonprofit since has reimbursed about $2,200 to the health department.
The audit also found four board members of the health department are also board members of the nonprofit which had not been audited since its establishment in 2000.
Cox said the nonprofit was reorganized in 2006, and its purpose is to raise private funds for the Oklahoma City-County Health Department.
Cox said he started a similar nonprofit, the Community Health Foundation, while he was director of the Tulsa Health Department.
The audit also expressed concern about several instances where timesheets were not signed by either the employee, a supervisor or both. Auditors said that could result in unrecorded transactions, misstated financial reports or misappropriation of funds.