Editorial: State audit details EMSA problem areas
BY World's Editorials Writers
Thursday, January 24, 2013
1/24/13 at 7:13 AM
The long-awaited state audit of Tulsa's ambulance service, EMSA, has finally been released, and it confirms findings that already had come to light.
The state Auditor and Inspector's office, looking into activity from Jan. 1, 2009, through June 30, 2012, found nothing illegal but criticized what it called "unwarranted and extravagant" spending, including $905 for two spa treatments for EMSA's CEO, $35,190 for floral arrangements, $23,000 for employee fitness classes and two employee parties costing more than $4,000 each.
Auditors also questioned $7 million in purchases EMSA made for its contractor, Paramedics Plus, and donations made to charities and associations, which they felt might not be "permissible under the Constitution." They suggested EMSA seek legal advice about those transactions.
Among other key findings of the report were: EMSA CEO Steve Williamson's relationship with two contractors presents the appearance of a conflict of interest that should be disclosed to the board; there is no policy requiring formal evaluations of the CEO or board review of purchases; CEO expenditures should be reviewed in detail and subject to board action; a significant number of board meetings were not held though there is video conference capability.
The audit made several recommendations regarding EMSA's billing practices, which had been the subject of confusion and controversy. The auditors blamed the billing problems on "human error." The problems with billing have since been addressed.
The audit was prompted by a Tulsa World investigation into EMSA billing practices and spending.
While the audit did pinpoint problem areas, it should be remembered that EMSA always has provided first-class ambulance service and that it took steps to correct many of the problems when they came to light.
As EMSA Board Chairwoman Lillian Perryman noted, the audit "was requested by the EMSA board, as part of our efforts in past months to improve the organization's overall practices and policies."
"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," she said.
Now that board members have a more detailed understanding of the oversight tasks they should be tending to, they can get about the business of continuing to address those problems while providing Tulsans with the high-quality care they expect.
Original Print Headline: EMSA audit