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Friday, October 9, 2009

Medical Board dinged by auditors


State Sen. Larry Dixon said he will give up the state vehicle and gas card he is given as part of his compensation as executive director of the Board of Medical Examiners after concerns were raised by state auditors.
Dixon, R-Montgomery, and the general counsel for the board both plan to give up their state vehicles, but he said he has had a vehicle as part of his compensation since 1985 and auditors who look at the board every two years have never had an issue with it before.
"The last thing I want to do is make the Board of Medical Examiners look like they are not following the law, even though we think we are," Dixon said. " ... Rather than make it look like this is something the board is doing controversial, we will give up a very big part of our benefit package."
The Alabama Department of Examiners of Public Accounts released an audit of the Board of Medical Examiners and the Medical Licensure Commission on Friday. The audit is of Oct. 1, 2005, to Sept. 30, 2008. The board handles the administration and finances for the licensure commission.
State auditors pointed out several other concerns at the two entities.

Auditors questioned whether use of a state vehicle as compensation is legal and said the board should seek an opinion from the attorney general. Dixon said he sought an opinion from the attorney general, who informed him through a letter that he could not issue an opinion because Dixon already had the vehicle and the point was moot. The executive director said the Medical Practice Act allows the board to set his compensation, which he said was outlined in the letter.
Auditors cited state law: "It shall be a misdemeanor for any person to use or permit any other person to use any state-owned automobile for any purpose other than official state business," although there are some allowances for travel to and from the place of employment to the employee's residence.
Dixon and the general counsel used the vehicles for personal use and official business, according to the audit.
Auditors also found that the board did not submit a legal services contract to the legislative contract review committee, which is required by law.
The contract is with the Medical Association of the State of Alabama providing compensation of $60,000 a year and is not based on an hourly rate, according to the audit.
Dixon said he dropped the ball on the contract. He said the board had a contract with the attorney at the association for 15 years and he did not submit the contract when they hired a new attorney. The board hires a lot of lawyers to help with action on the licenses of physicians, Dixon said.
"That was just a mistake on my part. It has now gone through the contract review committee," he said.
Dixon, as a lawmaker, authored legislation creating the contract review committee.
Auditors referred to the law in the report: "Notwithstanding any other provisions of this article, all contracts for employment of an attorney to provide legal services, including contracts involving an attorney providing legal services under an agreement with the attorney general, shall be reviewed by the committee."
In a February 2003 memorandum that then-Attorney General Bill Pryor sent to all state departments, boards, agencies, commissions and institutions, he attached a policy statement stating that "All legal services contracts must be sent to the legislative contract review committee."
The audit also pointed out an unresolved previous finding from 2001, which contended the board "did not competitively bid procurement of goods and services which are required to be bid under the provisions of the Code of Alabama ... The Board did not competitively bid purchases of janitorial services, building remodeling, and copy/print paper, all of which exceeded $7,500 in one fiscal year."
State law "requires all contracts of whatever nature for labor, services, work, or for the purchase or lease of materials, equipment, supplies, or other personal property, involving $7,500 or more to be let by free and open competitive bidding."
Auditors selected seven vendors used by the board and found that four of those were not competitively bid or put through a request for proposal process as required by law.
Prior to the completion of the audit report, the board did send out requests for proposals for new court reporting services, which were among the four noted for not being bid out.
Dixon said some of the other areas, such as janitorial services, have since been bid out.
"I am not aware of what those issues are, in particular. We will comply with all the findings," he said. "We always do."
Other findings include: "either inaccurate or incomplete" minutes kept from board meetings; not filing the necessary forms with the Internal Revenue Service for some law firms that worked for the board in 2007; and not compensating employees with the proper accrued leave time upon their departure.
Several of the issues were addressed during the auditing period.
Dixon said auditors were there off and on for four months.
"They're going to find something," he said.
Dixon said the board has been audited every two years for 30 years and they find "something new every time" even though the procedures have not changed at the board.


-- posted by Sebastian Kitchen

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