A state House of Representatives investigation is revealing more details about the Department of Health "misspending” at least $30 million. One week after the agency announced it is laying off 200 employees, we are getting some answers and it appears someone is lying.
This week, finance secretary Preston Doerflinger testified he didn’t know anything about the crisis until late October. But today, state auditor Gary Jones testified he first told Doerflinger in September there were problems. He says he told Doerflinger, “We’ve got issues at the Health Department. He called me back and I said, 'we’ve got major concerns based on what they’re telling us. They may not be able to make payroll in a few months.'”
On September 7th, Jones says he met with Doerflinger.
“He came to my office. We sat down and I said, 'based on this information, based on the plan that’s being put forward by upper management, it’s not going to work.'”
Jones says his office was tipped off to the misspending by employees at the agency.
Representative Cyndi Munson asked Jones, “Do you feel like the current budget issues may have had an impact on the state health departments ability to pay for their programs.”
Jones replied, “I believe the problems we’re facing now is the intentional inflation of the revenues to continue spending and not being realistic on their budget estimates.”
In other words, Jones says, the agency overspent, then tried to cover its tracks.
Committee chair Rep. Josh Cockroft says knowing the problems at the agency likely would have changed the direction of budget negotiations during special session. When asked whether he thinks Doerflinger, who was handpicked by the governor to serve as secretary of finance, lied to the committee, Cockroft replied, “I think that the executive branch knew before what they’re saying they knew.”
The governor’s office says, Doerflinger first notified the governor on October 27th of problems at the Department of Health.