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FBI, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to investigate Oklahoma Health Department

OKLAHOMA CITY – The Federal Bureau of Investigation and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services will investigate the Oklahoma Health Department, the Oklahoma Attorney General announced Tuesday.

Attorney General Mike Hunter announced that the FBI and the Office of the Inspector General of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) will partner with his office to investigate issues relating to the use of federal funds at the Oklahoma State Department of Health (OSDH).

Attorney General Hunter said attorneys and investigators with his office will work with federal authorities and the state auditor’s office to scrutinize movement and management of both state and federal monies at the OSDH.

“I appreciate the collaboration of the FBI and HHS in insuring that we can conduct a thorough and exacting review of the situation at OSDH,” Attorney General Hunter said. “We will get to the bottom of what happened there.”

This investigation comes amid an ongoing investigation into the health department’s finances.

An audit was announced in October following the resignations of former commissioner Dr. Terry Cline and senior deputy commissioner Julie Cox-Kain.

Last month, the Oklahoma State Department of Health requested an emergency $30 million from the legislature. Agency officials said without the money, vital services could be shut down and the agency could fail to meet payroll.

After an initial assessment, Interim Health Commissioner Preston Doerflinger said he discovered, since 2011, the department has been annually overspending on programs it can’t afford.

The mismanagement flew under the radar as money was moved around through several internal systems to keep operations afloat.

Last week, state auditor Gary Jones appeared before a special House committee which has been tasked with investigating apparent financial mismanagement at the Oklahoma State Department of Health.

Jones testified that state officials knew of the financial mismanagement, saying he met with Doerflinger in September regarding OSDH’s financial concerns.

According to Jones, an intentional overspending was part of the problem.

“On a $400 million budget, if you overspend by 1,25%…it’s $5 million dollars,” he told the panel Thursday. “You do that over a 6 year period, that’s $30 million.”

Doerflinger admitted there were conversations with Jones earlier this fall but maintained he was not aware of the significant problems until the late October meeting.