Office of Accountability Systems
Welcome to Team Health
Today, more than ever, Oklahomans demand the highest standards of accountability and integrity in state employees and state government. In an effort to assure these standards are met within the Oklahoma State Department of Health (OSDH), the Oklahoma State Board of Health (BOH) and the Oklahoma Legislature created the Office of Accountability Systems (OAS) in April 2002 to serve as an independent accountability risk management system within the OSDH. Its mission is to promote accountability and integrity in all OSDH programs by fostering and perpetuating an ethical culture throughout the Agency.
In 2006, the Oklahoma State Legislature statutorily reaffirmed the BOH’s mandates for the OAS when it enacted SB 1803. Senate Bill 1803 is codified at Section 1-105f of Title 63 of the Oklahoma State Statutes and sets forth the powers and duties of the OAS. It is one of the rare examples of a bill of substance that did not receive a single negative vote throughout the entire legislative process.
The OAS is statutorily tasked to receive and fairly investigate, as appropriate, complaints by, or information from, OSDH employees, service recipients and/or members of the general public concerning the possible existence of an activity within the OSDH constituting a violation of law, rules, regulations, mismanagement, gross waste of funds, abuse of authority or a substantial and specific danger to the public health and safety. The OAS is also tasked to coordinate audits and investigations and make reports to the BOH and State Commissioner of Health (Commissioner).
The success of the OAS largely depends upon: (1) the commitment of OSDH employees to conduct themselves at all times in an ethical manner and not make decisions based solely upon self-interest and/or expediency; (2) the commitment of Agency management to recognize and support the independent role of the OAS; and (3) the commitment of the OAS to communicate and work effectively with Agency management.
As a general rule, the OAS encourages OSDH employees to follow their normal supervisory chain of command pursuant to the Agency’s administrative procedures that are not within the scope of OAS complaints policy. However, if a situation arises where an OSDH employee is not able to follow his or her normal chain of command, he or she is encouraged to speak in complete confidence and by statute confidentiality with the OAS Director (Director). An OSDH employee may discuss OAS matters with the Director without the knowledge or consent of the employee’s supervisor. The OSDH will not tolerate or condone any retaliatory disciplinary action against an OSDH employee who in good faith engages in protected whistleblower activity.
The BOH has tasked the Director to create an infrastructure that will foster and perpetuate a positive ethical culture throughout the Agency. Specifically, the BOH has instructed the Director to develop a comprehensive ethics training program for the OSDH consisting of mandatory ethics education and training activities for all OSDH employees. As a result, in August 2005, the Agency’s Ethical Practices Committee (EPC) reactivated. Two co-chairs, one from the central office and one from a county health department, work with the Director to Administer the EPC. As the Agency’s Ethics Officer, the Director serves as the Ex Officio Chair of the EPC.
The current EPC is a cross-functional team of OSDH central office and county health department employees. Members are volunteers who adhere to and support ethical behaviors at OSDH.
By way of example, it developed a comprehensive ethics training program proposal. The proposal was supported by the Commissioner and Agency management and was unanimously approved by the BOH. This program is constantly updated to insure vitality and responsiveness. In addition, in consultation with the Executive Director of the Oklahoma Ethics Commission and Agency management, the current EPC worked diligently to complete the development of an Ethics Handbook, which was approved by the BOH in June 2007 and updated in June 2011. The Ethics Handbook serves as a valuable guidance tool for OSDH employees faced with difficult ethical issues or concerns.
Establishing and maintaining accountability and integrity in the operation of State government is the ultimate responsibility of every Oklahoman. Without your active participation and vigilance, the OAS cannot accomplish its mission. Only by working together can we foster the level of public trust deserving of our citizens and imperative to good government. Our mutual efforts to establish, maintain, and perpetuate a truly ethical and positive work environment will ensure that this Agency continues to move forward as the emerging example of the accountability and integrity “Gold Standard”, never again to be shackled by a cancerous public corruption scandal of the kind it suffered in May of 2000 which led the BOH to create this Office. With your help, we will stay the course!
Lloyd L. Smith, CPA
Director, Office of Accountability Systems
1000 N. E. 10th Street, Room 511
Oklahoma City, OK 73117-1299