Panel considering bill to ensure complete audits of health-care exchange

DENVER — The Legislative Audit Committee will consider a bill to allow the State Auditor’s Office to more thoroughly audit the state’s health-care exchange, the committee decided on Tuesday.

That decision came while the eight-member committee, which has an equal number of Democrats and Republicans, was considering an audit request from Rep. Jared Wright, R-Fruita.

State Auditor Dianne Ray told the committee that while her office already is in the midst of preforming a routine financial audit of the exchange, Connect for Health Colorado, it can’t examine much else because it is limited in what it can examine.

Ray said she notified Wright of that, saying her office would try to include as many of his issues as possible.

By law, the auditor only can examine financial matters that the exchange deals with. As a result, Ray requested, and the committee agreed, to have a bill drafted that would allow the office to conduct performance audits, as it does for most other state agencies.

“Our statutory authority is very narrow in doing an audit of the exchange,” she told the committee. “The statutes say that all money received by the board for the exchange are subject to audit, so we can only audit something with a nexus to the money.”

One of those things is a recent request by its director, Patty Fontneau, for bonuses for administrative staff. Fontneau, a Republican, currently earns $190,000 a year.

Fontneau later withdrew that request because it created a political firestorm for the exchange because it came at a time when the exchange’s website was having technical problems that made it hard for some people to register.

What the auditor isn’t allowed to look at are more “governing” issues, as Wright had requested, such as its decision to hire an outside public relations firm when it already had a public relations director and several other positions whose jobs are to deal with the public.

Wright said he was pleased that the audit committee planned to take steps to provide some accountability to the exchange.

“It’s a new process in Colorado, obviously, and I think it’s a victory in transparency in government,” Wright said. “I look forward to seeing what information comes out of it.”


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