Department of Human Services to be audited

Wednesday, January 23rd 2008, 7:24 pm
By: News 9

By Amy Lester, NEWS 9

We could soon know more about everything the Department of Human Services does. A state lawmaker's calling for an independent audit of the agency.

DHS is the largest state agency with more than 7,500 employees. Representative Susan Winchester says it's time for a comprehensive review of DHS, a huge agency that touches the lives of a million Oklahomans a day. Children, the elderly, the disabled and families all rely on DHS.

"There are things there that they do an outstanding job taking care of," Rep. Susan Winchester (R) District 47 said. "But, what's not working, how can we redirect the organization in the best possible way; put the best practices in place?"

In this bill, Representative Susan Winchester calls for an independent performance audit of DHS. It would focus on "improving efficiency in management and structure", "reducing employee turnover" and "improving outcomes" for those served by the agency.

"A lot of times we just let kids slip through the cracks, and I don't think that's ever done intentionally, but sometimes that happens," Rep. Winchester said.

The price tag of such an audit is not yet known. But, a recent audit of the Department of Corrections cost nearly $1 million.

"The DOC audit told us exactly what we already knew anyway, that was a complete waste of money," Rep. Winchester said.

Representative Richard Morrissette criticized the DOC audit all along. But, he's not opposed to an audit of DHS.

"Our first option should be as legislators," Rep. Richard Morrissette (D) District 92 said. "We should go in and determine what we already know, find out what we don't' know, use that as a private auditing firm, mix the two together and come up with a plan."

Representative Winchester's goal is to contract an outside auditor. She insists it's worth it.

"When you see what should be done if you're doing things they way they should be done, I think it all balances out and the cost is well justified," Rep. Winchester said.

DHS is aware of the bill and is looking into it. DHS typically does not comment on pending legislation.

Representative Richard Morrissette also has a DHS bill. He wants to divide DHS into three separate agencies; one for Children and Family services, one for Aging services and one for Disabilities services.