OSDH Chief Testifies In Front Of House Investigative Committee
OKLAHOMA CITY - We’re getting a closer look into the inner workings of the Oklahoma State Department of Health and what may have led the agency to misspend $30-million.
Friday, a House Investigative Committee heard from the Department of Health’s Chief Financial Officer, Mike Romero. Romero said he was only on the job a few weeks before he learned about, what he calls, the financial shell game going on at the agency along with an atmosphere of lies and intimidation to cover the agency’s tracks.
“The whole thing from beginning to end reminded me of various, oppressive, totalitarian regimes in other parts of the world that have nothing to do with this country or the way that we operate,” said Romero.
Romero said it didn’t take him long to discover financial mismanagement at the agency.
“There have never been financial reporting in this agency so I’m asking staff, hey let me see your last financial report. Where are the financial statements? So they didn’t have any,” Romero told the committee.
Romero said his co-workers had been ordered to shift cash around within the agency, even using federal dollars earmarked for certain programs on other things.
“And these budget and funding people are scared to death wondering if they don’t do this when they’re going to lose their job. So, it was an atmosphere of fear and intimidation,” said Romero.
After, Romero said he told his superiors about just how serious the situation was, they formed what they called an “Incident command center” to try to find funding, and to lie to the legislature and public about the reason for the agency’s problems.
“There were misleading remarks about health cuts and federal reductions that affected the state agency. And nobody’s telling the truth,” said Romero.
In the end, Romero said he’s surprised the mismanagement was able to continue for years.
“In private industry I mean if these kinds of things were going on, if these kind of things were going on people would be fired or thrown out in a day,” said Romero.
The FBI and the State Attorney General’s Office are looking into the misspending at the Department of Health.
Romero said he doesn’t believe any money was stolen, just misappropriated for years.