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Maryland medical examiner's office corrects contracting issues identified in audit

The state medical examiner's office, which has been stretched by the opioid overdose epidemic, let some compliance issues slip in recent years, potentially costing the state extra money, according to a routine review by state auditors.

The audit, spanning three and a half years and ending in September, found that the office didn't not follow required competitive bidding processes in purchasing some medical supplies, wasn't properly monitoring mileage charged by vendors to transport bodies and was not properly restricting employee access to the office's payment system.

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In each case, the medical examiner's office agreed with the findings and reported new procedures were in place to correct the problems.

Specifically, the audit checked 10 percent of more than 4,300 bodies transported and found more than a third had overbilled, amounting to about $3,000 in extra charges. The audit also found about 20 percent of the $1.9 million in supplies bought during the period audited were not competitively bid, making it unclear if the state got the best deal. And four of 35 employees with access to the payment system should have had no access or more limited access to do their jobs.

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The opioid epidemic has claimed so many lives in Maryland that the state medical examiner's office is having trouble performing autopsies on time, officials say.

The office generally has experienced significant strain as the number of autopsies has mounted amid the epidemic of opioid-related overdoses and was struggling to perform its duties in a timely manner. The office was under threat of losing its accreditation because each medical examiner was performing too many autopsies. The accreditation is necessary for legal and public trust in the findings.

After a Baltimore Sun report last year on the office's problems, the state granted the office more examiner positions.

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