Audit: $26.7 Million "Improperly" Spent By Prison Receiver

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A new state audit concludes the original federally court appointed receiver overseeing health care in California prisons "improperly" approved $26.7 million in spending on information technology needs.

State Auditor Elaine Howle's new report raps the knuckles of the receivership program for not following proper proceduresl, though the knuckles rapped belong the guy who used to be prison health care receiver: Robert Sillen. Sillen was replaced in January 2008 by Clark Kelso, a law professor who's been called upon to fix a number of state government messes in recent years.

The audit (summary here, full report here) concludes that under Sillen's watch, the receivership operation spent $26.7 million on IT goods and services without following proper competitive bidding procedures. The auditor says that one of two processes could have been used: state government's competitive bidding process, or an "alternative" method for the receivership approved by U.S. District Judge Thelton Henderson, who created the receivership a few years back as part of a long-running lawsuit against health conditions in the prisons.

"Staff at various levels," says the audit, "had little, if any, understanding about the competitive bidding requirements imposed by the federal court."

The audit also says that "wok environment" in the receivership offices discouraged staffers from raising concerns about how the IT money was being spent.

In a press release, Kelso said he's taken steps to fix the problems created before his arrival, and to ensure the IT services in question are "appropriate and in the best interest of the state."

[update 10:39 a.m. -- Kelso told reporters in a conference call this morning that he's referred the matter to Attorney General Jerry Brown. Those could be interesting conversations, given Brown's ongoing attack against Kelso's $8 billion prison health care plan.]

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About John Myers

John Myers is senior editor of KQED's new California Politics & Government Desk. He has covered California politics for most of the past two decades, serving previously as Sacramento bureau chief for KQED News and most recently as political editor for KXTV News10 (ABC) in Sacramento. In 2014, he was named one of the nation's top statehouse reporters by The Washington Post. Follow him on Twitter @johnmyers.

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