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Performance Audit of Vital Records and Health Data Statistics

Receives AOPTA Award for Six-Month Period - September 30, 2005

Scott Strong, Deputy Auditor General, is pleased to announce that the performance audit of Vital Records and Health Data Statistics, Bureau of Epidemiology, Department of Community Health, is the winner of the Audit Operations Project Team Award (AOPTA) for the six-month period ended September 30, 2005. The audit team consisted of Mike Gardner, supervisor; team members Corrie Jameson and Connie Jones; Rick Stafford, Audit Division Administrator; and Tom Beuerle, Audit Manager.

This project is an excellent example of a high profile and high impact performance audit of issues that are of high interest to the Legislature, to the media, and to the State’s citizens in general. In addition, the audit team generally met all of its audit time lines and completed the audit substantially within its budget.

The Bureau’s mission is to maintain the Statewide vital records system, which contains over 30 million records dating back to 1867, and to provide health related data and information to various users. A vital record is a certificate or registration of birth, death, marriage, or divorce or an acknowledgement of parentage or other related data. During 2003, the Bureau processed approximately 155,000 customer requests for copies of vital records, 85% of which were birth certificates; made legal changes to about 21,500 vital records; and received approximately 317,700 new records.

The audit team determined that the Bureau did not have controls over vital records that would prevent individuals from creating false identities that could be used, for example, to illegally obtain driver licenses, passports, and social security cards.

The Office of the Inspector General, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, has stated that certificates of birth provide a means for opening many doors in society, from citizenship privileges to social security benefits. Individuals can use birth certificates to obtain driver licenses, passports, social security cards, or other documents with which to create false identities. Therefore, the need to establish sufficient controls over the birth registration process is of national concern.

The audit report generated substantial interest from the Legislature and received extensive coverage in the media, including articles in both MIRS and GONGWER. Newspapers and other media outlets that provided coverage of the audit included the Detroit Free Press, the Detroit News, the Oakland Press, the Macomb Dailey, the Muskegon Chronicle and the Associated Press. Also several television stations reported on the audit.

The audit report contained 11 findings, 2 of which were classified as material conditions:

The Bureau did not periodically review the controls of local registrar offices or hospitals to ensure that these local units had sufficient safeguards over vital records, safety paper, or blank records used to generate vital records

The Bureau did not retrieve vital records in the possession of local clerk offices that no longer had the authority to accept or issue those documents.

The audit also reported that the Bureau did not retain all documentation to support changes to vital records or customer requests for information consistent with established retention periods and that the Bureau did not maintain security agreements for all individuals who had access to the Central Paternity Registry database.

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