Oklahoma AG Seeks Audit Of Health Department Spending
Oklahoma’s top prosecutor on Tuesday requested an investigative audit of the state Health Department over the agency’s spending of state-appropriated funds.
It wasn’t immediately clear whether Attorney General Mike Hunter’s request was related to the state’s coronavirus response, which the agency is leading.
Hunter formally requested the audit of the State Department of Health in a letter to State Auditor & Inspector Cindy Byrd.
“One of the duties of the Attorney General as the chief law officer of the state is to enforce the proper application of monies appropriated by the Legislature and to prosecute breaches of trust in the administration of such funds,” Hunter wrote.
A spokesman for Hunter declined to elaborate on the request, but Hunter’s chief deputy warned the agency’s director, Gary Cox in a separate letter Tuesday about retaliating against employees who report “wrongful governmental activities” under the state’s Whistleblower Act.
“As it is reasonably foreseeable that the records examined may be evidence in future proceedings, you should take immediate action to preserve any items – including but not limited to electronically stored information – germane to this inquiry,” Chief Deputy Attorney General Mary Ann Roberts wrote to Cox.
A spokeswoman for the Health Department didn’t immediately comment on Hunter’s request for an audit.
The request comes just days after The Associated Press reported the agency spent $2 million to acquire a malaria drug touted by President Donald Trump to treat patients with the coronavirus, despite warnings from doctors that more research is needed.
Gov. Kevin Stitt’s secretary of health, Jerome Loughridge, said Tuesday that purchase was made during the “fog of war” in the early days of the coronavirus pandemic and before the release of studies that downplayed the effectiveness of the drug, hydroxychloroquine, to treat COVID-19.
Oklahoma acquired 1.2 million pills, or about 100,000 doses, on April 4 from FFF Enterprises, a California-based medical supply wholesaler, according to the Oklahoma State Department of Health.
Hunter’s request for an audit was first reported by The Oklahoman newspaper.
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