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State Auditor questions DHHS comments in hearing

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RALEIGH, N.C. -

A letter by State Auditor Beth Wood on Thursday questioned statements made Tuesday by Department of Health and Human Services officials in a General Assembly hearing.

DHHS Secretary Aldona Wos and her top lieutenants, in a day-long hearing Tuesday, answered questions and concerns from legislators about the department.

Wood, in her letter to Rep. Justin Burr, said her office "would like to clarify some of the information provided to the committee by officials from [DHHS]."

Read Wood's full letter here

Wood wrote that Wos, in response to a question, said, "No, Senator" when asked if the DHHS had received any professional opinions that the NCTracks system might not be ready to go live July 1.

Wood wrote, "This answer ignores our audit issued on May 22, 2013, titled, 'NCTracks (MMIS Replacement) -- Implementation.' The State Auditor met and presented Secretary Wos with the findings and recommendations as early as March 27, 2013, to allow her department to begin addressing problems uncovered in the audit."

Wood wrote that the audit showed multiple concerns about launching NCTracks July 1 and said DHHS "should re-evaluate its current 'Go' decision for July 1, 2013, once final 'Go/No-go criteria is established and documented.':

Wood wrote that Joe Cooper, the chief technology officer for DHHS, said in his presentation that DHHS had tested the NCTracks system and it met their tests.

Wood wrote, "Our audit, however, found several shortcomings in the testing of the system."

She wrote, "Our work found that the department allowed CSC [the vendor for NCTracks] to develop the acceptance criteria for its own work, one week prior to the testing phase, and that the department lacked clear test benchmarks."

Wood also said Cooper's characterization of the "point of no return" for the HP contract was incorrect.

Ricky Diaz, director of communications for DHHS, said in a statement, "I want to reiterate the high professional regard Secretary Wos and her leadership team have for State Auditor Beth Wood.

"DHHS took the Auditor's May report on NCTracks very seriously. The Secretary did not mention the State Auditor in her response because all the concerns raised in the report were addressed prior to NCTracks going live on July 1."

In a separate letter, Wood criticized some characterizations made in two articles on the North Carolina Health News website.

"We stand by the accuracy of our January Medicaid report," Wood wrote.

She said the "scope of the audit" was not widened in January. She called other parts of the article "misleading."

In response to Wood's letter, DHHS communications director Ricky Diaz said, "The auditor should be commended for setting the record straight. The allegation that the Department of Health and Human Services 'sat on,' 'withheld' or 'distorted' information in the state auditor's report is false."

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