Audits: some state agencies not following laws

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — A state auditor’s report on the Iowa Department of Public Health released Wednesday criticized the agency for failing to inspect funeral homes and mortuaries as required by state law.

In the public health report the auditors said the Iowa Code requires the department to inspect “all places where dead human bodies are prepared or held for burial, entombment or cremation.”

The law gives the department the authority to adopt and enforce rules for inspections “necessary for the preservation of the public health.”

In June the Board of Mortuary Science recommended changing the law to say the department may inspect the facilities instead of shall inspect them, said department spokeswoman Polly Carver-Kimm.

“We take it seriously and we’re working on a process of trying to amend the code,” said Iowa Public Health Director Dr. Mariannette Miller-Meeks. She said the state hasn’t inspected funeral homes for decades, leaving it to cities and counties to handle through local ordinances.

She said her agency wants the authority to inspect funeral homes if concerns arise but typically rely on local government and the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration regulations to oversee the operations.

Auditors said the agency also has not performed the required inspections of hair salons every two years as outlined in the state code.

The agency responded by saying its Board of Cosmetology “considers inspections of salons an important component in protecting the public and continues to consider financially feasible solutions to the requirements for onsite inspections.”

The board is scheduled to discuss the requirement at its August meeting.

Auditors also questioned whether $11,700 spent for 350 meals served at pharmacy board and pharmacy outreach meetings by local restaurants were legitimate state expenditures. The department responded by saying the Department of Administrative Services has repeatedly authorized the board’s expenditure for the meals. Public health officials said the pharmacy outreach meetings are important to engage pharmacists in a meaningful dialogue with the board and staff “to update, educate and inform licensees of new and proposed changes to pharmacy-related laws and rules.”

The agency said written policies and procedures will be developed including the proper justification of the public purpose served.

The health department audit one of several released Wednesday by State Auditor Mary Mosiman. Also released were reports on the departments of administrative services, agriculture, the blind, inspections and appeals, and justice.

The audit report for the Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship said the agency failed to start a program designed to promote the production and consumption of ethanol fuel as required by the Legislature.

The Office of Renewable Fuels and Co-products is not operational due to a lack of funding, auditors noted.

They also said the department does not maintain an accurate inventory of gas pumps in the state and therefore fails to perform all inspections annually as required by law.

“The department is doing the best it can given the resource constraints it presently operates under,” the agency responded in the audit report. “The department is doing extensive monitoring on the work being completed by each inspector in an effort to ensure all code required inspections are being completed in the recommended timeframe…”

Auditors questioned The Department of the Blind’s expenditure of $17,000 to pay for cell phones for 45 employees and $10,000 for home internet connections for 16 workers.

“Although the department stated these items are to be used for work related business, there is no support maintained by the department to verify these items are not being used for personal use,” auditors said.

The department responded in the audit by saying some employees work from home so the department may avoid office rent and expenses and minimize travel costs to and from Des Moines.

“The department believes it has acted reasonably in the circumstances consistent with carrying out its unique mission benefiting the people it serves based on their needs.”

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