State Auditor Gary Jones released the Special Investigative Audit requested last by year by the Emergency Medical Services Authority (EMSA) Board of Trustees.
The audit looked at potential conflicts of interest between EMSA executives or personnel and various vendors, erroneous billing errors or collection practices, and assessed expenditures for economy and public purpose among other items.
"We took a close look at things with a view toward EMSA's effectiveness and efficiency of operation," said State Auditor Gary Jones. "Frankly, EMSA is a public entity that provides industry leading medical transport for people during critical life moments. It has also engaged in questionable, extravagant spending without regard for the public interest and its rate payers specifically. These excessive, and we believe unwarranted, expenditures are the very thing that erode public trust because they do nothing to promote accountability."
The audit looked at spending between June 2009 and January 2012. Some examples of "extravagant spending" noted in the audit included more than $30,000 spent on flower arrangements over a three year period for office beautification and consolation gifts. Noteworthy spending also included reimbursements for the longtime CEO Stephen Williamson including a $400 trip to a spa, a $450 American Airlines Admirals' Club membership, a $669 hotel bill not including the room charge but composed of charges such as room service, a mini bar and data service, a $1105 dinner with seven board and staff members; and two lifetime subscriptions to satellite radio services for $800. The report says Williamson's reimbursements comprised 50% of all reimbursements for EMSA employees: more than $316,000.
The audit also notes EMSA paid $23,875 to the wife of an EMSA employee who provided exercise classes to Oklahoma City EMSA employees at a cost of $125 monthly per person.
The audit makes recommendations for expenditure expectations, a review process for the CEO's expenses, and a plan to enhance expenditure transparency, stating "there is no clear policy governing who, if anyone, is required to approve the CEO's credit card purchases. EMSA employees' attitudes and practices are strongly influenced by senior management. It is therefore imperative for senior management, especially the CEO, and the board of Trustees, to strike a proper tone at the top
so employees understand that abusive expenditures will not be tolerated.... It is imperative the [board of Trustees] view EMSA as a public
trust of the state of Oklahoma, beholden to the rules and regulations imposed on such entities and always mindful of the need to serve the best interest of the public..."
EMSA officials released this statement about the audit:
“The audit, released [Tuesday] afternoon, was requested by the EMSA board, as part of our efforts in past months to improve the organization’s overall practices and policies,” said Lillian Perryman, chairwoman of the EMSA board.
“We requested it because we wanted specific areas evaluated by a third party and look forward to seeing their recommendations. We are still reviewing the report and it will be discussed in detail in tomorrow’s board meeting.
“The board and EMSA management must review the report and recommendations made by the State Auditor in detail and make decisions based on what is best for the citizens of the communities served by EMSA. What we do with the information is the critical piece of the audit process and we will be committed to improving organizational practices. The quality of care delivered by our service to our citizens in the Tulsa and Oklahoma City areas is excellent and has never been called into question.
“Any recommendations will be evaluated and acted upon rapidly in the next few months, as appropriate. All of this discussion will happen in open, public meetings at board and committee meetings.”
The audit will be discussed at EMSA’s board meeting on Wednesday afternoon in Oklahoma City.
The full EMSA - Special Investigative Audit Report is available online at www.sai.ok.gov