Audit shows questionable record keeping

December 31, 2009 10:10:37 AM PST
Eighteen months ago, an ABC11 Eyewitness News I-Team investigation uncovered potentially tens of thousands of dollars in waste in North Carolina's prison system.

Prescription drugs, meant for state prisoners, were actually thrown out with the garbage by the North Carolina Department of Corrections. But in an interview with ABC11 in July, 2008, the DOC's pharmacy director said there was nothing wrong.

"We have many systems in place to ensure that we protect and serve the public the very best we can with their tax dollars," said Janet Brown.

But four months after our expose, the State Auditor of North Carolina dug into the prison pharmacy files. The findings? It says the prison system has no record keeping to know how much money in pills is returned and dumped. 77 percent of specific drug counts did not match inventory records.

"The Central Pharmacy does not maintain adequate control over inventory access to prevent unauthorized use, theft, or loss of approximately $25.1 million in drug and pharmaceutical supply purchases. Nor does it maintain adequate records to ensure that recorded inventory balances are accurate," read the report in part.

Click here to read the entire report on the State Auditor website (.pdf)

The Department of Corrections told the auditor that staff stopped dumping pills in the Wake County landfill in April of 2008. That was three months before our story. But during our interview, the DOC never said they stopped dumping pills.

The Department of Corrections pharmacy has a staff of 90 people. The DOC responded to the state audit by saying, in part, that exact record keeping of pill returns would not be worth the expense of having to hire more staff.

The auditor, Beth Wood, does not agree.

"Central Pharmacy management should ensure that all pharmacy inventory is subject to effective accountability procedures and physical safeguards," said the Auditor's report.

The Department of Corrections told the auditor's office they have to dispense 4,800 medications a day - by hand. It said a new robotic dispensing system is coming soon, which will improve the inventory controls and cut down on returns and waste.

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