Whidbey hospital, agencies remain noncompliant with state auditor

Despite firing off a warning shot in January, the Washington State Auditor’s Office has still not received required financial data from Whidbey General Hospital and other local entities.

It is the fourth year in a row that Whidbey General Hospital has failed to file documents on the state auditor’s website as part of an initiative to increase public access to information. Those filing the documents complain that the process is arduous and redundant and, for the moment, noncompliance carries no penalties so it tends to fall low on the priority list.

“I know of no penalty for not doing it other than you’re not compliant with the law,” said Adam Wilson, communications manager for the state auditor’s office.

However, Wilson mentioned there has been talk recently by legislators about placing some kind of penalty for non-compliance in the future.

The Auditor’s office released a list in January of the non-compliant which listed 11 Island County agencies, as a friendly reminder to file.

Wilson said that Whidbey General has begun the process for 2014 but had not completed it at press time. The three previous years were never submitted.

Whidbey General Hospital board member Georgia Gardner, a certified public accountant, said that on top of all the other financial documentation required by the hospital, the uploading of the additional information for public consumption seems redundant.

The hospital is already required to submit documents directly to the Auditor as well as have an outside firm audit them.

“Frankly if I was running the accounting department, it would be the last thing I would do,” Gardner said. “It’s a matter of too few people with too many things to do. It’s not as important as a lot of things.”

Gardner said that those interested can always request financial information from the hospital to review, although documents are not routinely available online except through the state auditor’s website.

Governmental entities are required to upload budget and finance information to the state auditor’s Local Government Financial Reporting System within 150 days from the end of the year, or by May 30.

The hospital was not the only one with a history of non-compliance.

Island County Emergency Services Communications Center is also in its fourth year of non-compliance. I-COM Office Manager Jan Smith said Friday that the organization is in the process of preparing the data, and hopes to upload it within the next 10 days.

“It’s a long-going process,” Smith said. “We had to rebuild a lot of data.”

Island County was also listed as non-compliant although they completed the process June 4, five days late.

Other agencies listed as non-compliant for 2014 are Island County Cemetery District, Island County Drainage Districts No. 1 and 5, Juniper Beach Water District and the Island County Council of Governments.

Those who were listed in the January report but appear to now be compliant for 2014 include: Admirals Cove Water District, Crockett Lake Water District, Freeland Water District, Holmes Harbor Sewer District and Lagoon Point Water District,

“We appreciate every effort local governments make,” Wilson said. “We believe they’re an important part of being accountable to the public.”