In a holdover from public records requested during the reporting of this week's

, SFR finally got its hands on the final bit of our Dec. 11 public records request to the New Mexico Department of Health: an external audit of the department by Meyners + Company—which according to the new

made $210,223 for this

, in what amounted to its

fourth most lucrative government contract

of 2009. (To see the audit contract info, visit

and search under "Meyners" or the DOH contract number, 84980.)

Some things here are suspect. Meyners, for one:

It's hard not to connect the dots

between the firm's

in government contracts last year (and

since Gov. Bill Richardson took office) and Meyners CEO

's campaign donation

. Then  (according to his

) there's Malott's former position as the

Richardson campaign's treasurer

. Recently, Malott has been plagued by

and this month he was

named as a defendant

in a pay-to-play

.

Perhaps it should be no surprise, then, that what jumps about the Meyners audit

isn't so much what's there, but what's missing

. And in this case, it's

$1.7 million

.

Although the audit details some past problems with the WIC program—

"lack of effective controls and procedures

to ensure the grant [money is] only drawn on for actual expenditures" was one—

it says nothing of the

$1.7 million

in WIC (the federal Women, Infants and Children nutrition program) funds that

was improperly moved.

How could an unbiased—if it were that—team of auditors

fail to interview the one man who had been vocal about the very types of concerns such audits are meant to investigate?

What's more, it's not as if Ortiz's concerns were new: According to Ortiz and others, meetings on WIC's most recent financial problems  began in February 2009. Any audit of that fiscal year should have at least addressed the $1.7 million issue—not to mention the regular, $1 to $2 million offset that Ortiz says was the product of fiscal inattention to WIC since 2006.

Instead, the Meyners audit—while purporting to examine the WIC program—found only one problem: $231,000 in over-drawn federal grant money (which the DOH eventually paid back to the USDA). Of course, $231,000 is

only slightly more than the cost of the audit itself

, and small potatoes compared to the

$1.7 million Ortiz says he was ordered to fudge

into FY09 when, he says, it was actually spent in FY08.

"The Department should have effective controls and procedures in place to ensure the grant is only drawn for actual expenditures," Meyners recommends.

While the audit seems to suggest there was no $1.7 million problem, other documents tell a different story. In addition to extensive financial records obtained by SFR, the "$1.7 million issue" crops up repeatedly in minutes from formal meetings of DOH higher-ups. Case in point:

The minutes from an Aug. 19 meeting with most of the same attendees—with the

notable exception of Bob Ortiz

—read thus:

1.7 Million Issue: Duffy announced that David Gonzales of OIA has been assigned to investigate and resolve this issue. As such, David will be contacting participants for information. The team is encouraged to provide David with requested information as quickly as possible as it is hoped this issue may be resolved within a fortnight.

The problem? OIA, the DOH's Office of Internal Audit,

did address the $1.7 million issue. So how could an external audit ignore it?

Ortiz says the Meyners auditors

didn't even talk to him about it.

Meanwhile, back at the DOH, we hear things are a little funny. On Jan. 14, the day after SFR's cover story on the DOH, "Carlos" posted the following comment:

FYI all DOH employees

the DOH information technology bureau has now blocked all access to the sfreporter web site from department computers

what's up with this?

Today, "Carlos" posted that access had been restored, but another contact tells SFR that all copies of this week's paper were removed from Runnels, the DOH building, by Thursday morning. SFR has since continued to receive anonymous tips about

problems with DOH's hiring and financial practices.
Updated 5:02pm Jan. 15.