A state auditor’s report slams the state board that licenses and regulates dentists for mismanagement and urges more oversight.
The compliance audit of the Mississippi State Board of Dental Examiners details what state Auditor Shad White called alarming management practices including evidence that board staff was allowed to consume alcohol on the job.
“What we found at the Dental Board is an example of particularly bad management,” White said The staff at the board failed to follow proper procedures when making purchases, failed to separate purchasing duties (which can lead to fraud), held cash that should have been deposited for too long, failed to follow proper bookkeeping procedures, and accumulated excessive comp time.”
The report details findings related to the current board members, former executive director and several other employees.
Findings of the report:
The executive director of the agency operates with nearly complete autonomy from effectively no oversight being exercised by the board of directors
Many instances of noncompliance with state law related to travel card purchases and reimbursements for travel were found
Board meeting minutes were not properly approved, signed or posted in several instances
Payments for contracted services and commodities were processed incorrectly.
Cash and check payments received for licenses were not deposited in a timely fashion, which could lead to fraud and abuse. A log of cash receipts was not kept, which allowed cash to remain unattended in the office for three months
Several instances of unauthorized and excessive amounts of compensatory leave were awarded to the former executive director and deputy executive director
Multiple employees received insurance coverage that differed from the coverage plan indicated in Statewide Personnel and Human Resource System filings.
In July, longtime executive director Diane Howell abruptly resigned after a lengthy executive board meeting. She had been there 24 years.
When asked Monday if the board officially fired Howell, Board President Dr. Frank Conaway Jr., a Bay St. Louis dentist, said it was personnel matter and wouldn’t discuss it further.
Conaway said Monday of the audit report: “it says what it says. The report pointed out some things and we corrected them.” He wouldn’t make any other comment.
The board is seeking applicants for the executive director’s position, but questions arose about whether the board was lowering qualifications for the position.
The posted qualifications said a person with a high school diploma or GED and related experience could be considered for the job, which pays a maximum salary of $90,000 a year.
The then-deputy director didn’t have a college degree, which led to speculation that she could move into the executive director’s position. However, the deputy director, who was serving as interim executive director, abruptly resigned last week prior to the release of the auditor’s report. Her resignation is effective September 30.
The dental board had an executive meeting on Friday on the executive director’s position.
Conaway said last month about 20 applicants had applied for the position. He said the minimum qualification language was taken from the old job application for executive director when Howell was hired.
White said the auditor’s office also found evidence that the staff was allowed to consume alcohol during work hours.
“Going forward, the board needs to choose its director carefully and then engage in closer oversight of the staff,” White said. “The taxpayers and licensees funding the board deserve better. I also hope this audit reminds the boards of other small agencies to take a closer look at how those agencies are being run and to engage in closer oversight if necessary.”