Days after an unflattering performance audit found the state Department of Health Services had misallocated money from the Medical Marijuana Fund, the agency’s director said she will ensure requests for those dollars will face more scrutiny.
DHS Director Cara Christ disagreed with the state auditor’s finding that her staff had misspent nearly $1 million, but the process of approving expenditures from the fund meant to keep the state’s Medical Marijuana Program functioning is getting a facelift nonetheless, starting with improved records maintenance.
“It’s not so much that we’re changing it because we agree that we misallocated [money]. We did find areas that we can improve in,” Christ told the Arizona Capitol Times Thursday.
The core issue seems to be in the program’s record-keeping – or lack thereof.
Christ pointed to the audit’s qualm with two employees whose salaries were paid for entirely through the Medical Marijuana Fund though they also worked on other programs at the department.
“We couldn’t go back and show why we felt that it was OK to pay 100 percent of that person’s [salary] because we didn’t have the records,” she said. “Had we had the records, we probably would have been able to.”
Moving forward, the program will be documenting expenditure decisions clearly, both with regard to approvals and denials.
“We do take a careful look at everything that’s being used by that fund because we are highly aware that if it is used inappropriately as determined by a court of law or the Legislature, we’ll have to pay that back,” she said, adding that “obviously, we’re not going crazy spending money.”
And she emphasized that there was no intent to misallocate any of the funds.
“It was disappointing to see the way that it was phrased,” she said of that finding in particular.