www.baltimoresun.com/health/bs-hs-medical-examiner-audit-20110801,0,5687867.story

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State medical examiner's office ordered to follow procurement process

Audit finds problems with oversight

By Andrea K. Walker, The Baltimore Sun

5:27 PM EDT, August 1, 2011

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The state Office of the Chief Medical Examiner bought $179,800 worth of medical supplies without following a formal procurement process, according to a state audit.

The audit also found that employees at the office, which investigates suspicious deaths, made $510,400 worth of purchases using state-issued credit cards without getting proper approval from a supervisor.

Chief Medical Examiner David R. Fowler said in a telephone interview Monday that the lack of oversight at the agency, which employs about 76 people, came when the agency's purchasing officer retired.

Fowler said employees are now being trained to perform those duties.

"Unfortunately, we were left a position short and a skill set short," Fowler said, noting that no fraud occurred because of the lack of oversight.

The medical supplies were bought from two vendors from July 2009 to April 2011, with one vendor being paid $122,700 and the other $57,100.

State regulations require deals that are worth more than $5,000 to go through a procurement process and have a written contract.

State auditors reviewed 29 instances of employees' using state credit cards for purchases from July 2010 to March 2011. Twenty-three of those charges, totaling $510,400, were not reviewed or approved by a supervisor.

As a result of the audit, the medical examiner's office has agreed to follow a formal written procurement process and have supervisors review credit card purchases. The agency will also have an independent employee review invoices before paying vendors.

andrea.walker@baltsun.com

twitter.com:ankwalker

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