Governor, Health Commissioner Respond to AG's Request for Oklahoma Health Department Audit

May 1, 2020

Oklahoma has spent millions of dollars building its supply of personal protective equipment and other medical supplies for the COVID-19 pandemic.
Credit The Oklahoman

Gov. Kevin Stitt and Health Commissioner Gary Cox offered a response of sorts Thursday to Attorney General Mike Hunter’s request for an investigative audit of the Oklahoma State Department of Health’s spending.

Stitt said the health department is buying personal protective equipment, ventilators and other supplies for the state’s COVID-19 response on the competitive global market, purchases the state has $1.2 billion in federal funds for.

"With everything the health department has bought to help protect Oklahomans, it’s spent 1% of our total federal dollars available to fight COVID up to this point," Stitt said.

That would be $12 million. Various reports have the state paying $2 million for a stockpile of hydroxychloroquine — a malaria drug not proven to treat COVID-19 — $9 million for masks to a company in existence less than a month, and a $56,000 "finder's fee" to a middleman for 2.8 million gloves he was not able to obtain.

Cox said he’s received notice of the investigation from the state auditor.

"We welcome the audit, and we’ve had a conversation with Auditor Cindy Byrd and told her to expect our full cooperation. We’re transparent, and we open all of our records for scrutiny from her office," Cox said.

While Stitt and Cox focused their comments on the health department’s spending related to its COVID-19 response, a Hunter spokesman said Friday the attorney general’s request is not limited in scope.