Cars, computers and digital cameras are just a few of the more than 5,000 items that have been lost or stolen over the past three years from the Indian Health Service, according to a Government Accountability Office report.
All told, the GAO said that the agency mishandled about $15.8 million worth of equipment, including an electronic handheld device that housed unsecure medical information and patient names at a Tucson, Ariz.-area hospital and a desktop computer that held Social Security numbers and medical data for 849 patients. The lost or stolen property and waste we detected at IHS can be attributed to the agencys weak internal control environment and its ineffective implementation of numerous property policies, the GAO states.
Computer equipment made up the lions share of the missing property. Of the 3,155 pieces of IT equipment that were on the books at the IHS, 1,140 items were lost, stolen or unaccounted for, the GAO said. The GAO also said that the IHS had purposely tried to derail its investigations, fabricating hundreds of documents and being less than forthright during the investigationsa charge that HHS denied in writing.
The IHS has a budget of about $4 billion annually and includes 46 hospitals and 309 health clinics that serve American Indians and Alaskan natives across the country. In a written response, HHSIHS parent agencysaid that the GAO report contains many inaccuracies and misinterpretations. -- by Matthew DoBias