Medical examiner's office breaks procurement rules, audit says

A new report from legislative auditors found that the state Office of the Chief Medical Examiner purchased medical supplies without seeking competitive bids or written contracts during the three years ending in May 2014 and may not have gotten the best deals.

The agency, within the state Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, spent a total of $496,000 largely with three vendors, according to auditors from the state Department of Legislative Services. The auditors had made the same criticism during a previous report but the medical examiner's office didn't address the problem.

The medical examiner's office investigated 10,556 deaths and performed 3,915 autopsies during fiscal 2013 with a $10.6 million budget.

Competitive bidding is required for purchases by state offices greater than $25,000 and written contracts are needed when the price tag exceeds $5,000.

Dr. Joshua M. Sharfstein, state health secretary, said the problem arose when the position of agency buyer was abolished in January 2011. The department plans to use a vacant position to fill the post by the end of the year.

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