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Audit reports $272,000 fraud by former UIHC employee

BY STACEY MURRAY | OCTOBER 25, 2012 6:30 AM

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Despite a University of Iowa Hospital and Clinics employee’s reportedly shaky track record, her continued employment allegedly allowed for an improper disbursement of $270,000 over a nine-year period. Following the incident, one state auditor said officials should look more carefully into administrative oversight in the facility.

The State Audit Report revealed at the state Board of Regents meeting Wednesday in Iowa City that Jennifer Whitmore-Meier of the UIHC’s Department of Orthopedics and Rehabilitation IT services allegedly improperly disbursed roughly $270,000 during nearly a decade of employment.

Meier worked at the UIHC from Dec. 1, 2002, until her termination on Jan. 19, following the university officials’ concerns catalyzed the investigation.

The investigation was taken to proper legal authorities on Wednesday morning, including the Johnson County County Attorney’s Office, and the investigation remains ongoing, University of Iowa spokesman Tom Moore said.

Meier’s first alleged misuse of financial access occurred in 2006, when the university paid $839 in personal expenses for Meier’s trip to North Carolina for an IT training event.  She took extra personal days on the trip and claimed they were business expenses.  Despite the department’s knowledge of this, she was not terminated, suspended, or restricted from her PCard, which allows her access to UIHC finances.

The majority of the disbursements included roughly $200,000 of equipment bought with department funds by her procurement card that Meier subsequently sold on eBay.

The 200-page audit reports Meier deposited university rebates into a personal bank account and made purchases for iPods, cameras, and Xbox games along with altering information that led to Meier being overly reimbursed for department purchases.

Along with the alleged improper purchases, Meier didn’t account for 61 days of vacation that she didn’t spend at the UIHC working.

“I would just like to simply point out that if action would’ve been taken in July or August [in 2006], that could’ve stopped the fraud definitely,” said David Vaudt, the Iowa state auditor.

The money lost through the improper disbursements hasn’t been recovered and may have to be absorbed by the hospital, said UI Vice President for Medical Affairs Jean Robillard. He did not state whether the hospital would attempt to recover the lost funds.

Despite the monetary issue, Robillard defended the hospital’s care and service, reminding the regents the incident did not affect the quality of care.

“This incident didn’t involve patient care or quality of care, it involved documentation,” he said.

The auditor discovered several concerns when addressing the polices and procedures within the department, including a lack of inventory records and control over inventory, along with a lack of administrative action that occurred after discovery of Meier’s improper use of the University PCard in 2006.

The audit report recommended the UIHC department “strengthen overall controls and overall operations, such as enhancing controls over purchases made with department funds.”

In a press conference following the meeting, the available spokesmen said the audit might be the largest in the hospital’s history.

“Certainly over 10 years, this has been the case,” said Regent Robert Downer.  “Just from my memory as a longtime observer, I don’t recall anything that would approach this in the past.”

While the hospital has undergone a serious issue, Regent Jack Evans hopes to move forward and learn from this experience.

“This is a learning institution, and I think we need to learn from this experience,” Evans said.


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