OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) - Oklahoma lawmakers are siding with the state’s Department of Veterans Affairs after a state audit criticized the agency.
The auditor’s office received a letter Wednesday signed by 11 lawmakers. The letter accuses auditors of bias in an Aug. 1 audit that concluded Veterans Affairs has “a culture of fear and intimidation” at the Oklahoma City office, the Oklahoman reported .
“The report appears to not include all of the information gathered but information that would only serve to highlight a biased perspective,” the lawmakers’ letter stated.
Auditors spoke with more than 250 employees over the course of three years for the report. The poor work environment has caused staffing shortages, leading to a decline in patient care, though there haven’t been state regulation violations, the audit said.
Veterans Affairs leaders alleged that auditors cherry-picked negative responses from disgruntled employees while ignoring uncritical answers.
The letter requested Auditor Gary Jones explain why he “only included the negative feedback from the surveys” in the audit report. Lawmakers also asked him to turn over copies of all employee surveys and responses by Friday.
“They’re attacking the messenger,” Jones said. “They’re not addressing the issues, they’re not addressing the concerns. There are major concerns in that report.”
Jones said it’s unreasonable for lawmakers to expect his office to produce the documents by the end of this week, considering he only received the letter Wednesday morning.
“We’ll deal with it,” he said. “We’re a constitutional body. We don’t report to the Legislature directly, and we definitely don’t report to a handful of senators and representatives individually.”
The Talihina Veterans Center was a major focus of the audit amid discussion of relocating the facility. Jerry Pearce, who’s trying to save the center, said the lawmakers’ letter is more proof that Veterans Affairs is trying to discredit a fair state audit.
“If the auditors are requested to provide the legislators and Oklahoma Department of Veterans Affairs with the surveys and responses from the employees, then it’s going to put these employees at risk of being terminated,” Pearce said. “This is just another example of how vindictive ODVA can be.”
Information from: The Oklahoman, http://www.newsok.com
Copyright © 2022 The Washington Times, LLC.