Wildlife and Fisheries' funds audit shows lack of management oversight

Staff Report

An evaluation of the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries' internal financial controls found a lack of management oversight over the Department's funds and operations, the Legislative Auditor said in a report released today. A draft copy of this report was previously obtained by the media, and news stories were published based on this preliminary information. The Legislative Auditor has now completed his work and issued the final report on Nov. 9, citing several deficiencies, including purchases that appear excessive, missing state property, and inadequate controls over purchasing, contracting, and time and attendance.

The state entered into an agreement with British Petroleum Exploration & Production Inc. (BP) following the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill that would pay the Department $18 million to develop a seafood testing program. The report noted that the Department lacked financial and operational oversight over the nearshore segment of the BP Tissue Sampling Program, which resulted in deviations from the Seafood Safety Testing Sampling Protocol, costs that appear excessive, and missing state property. Employees spent more than $3 million, or $2,796 per fish for the 1,091 fish sampled. Of the total, approximately $2.3 million was spent on boats, fishing and water sports equipment, lodging, vehicles, household supplies and groceries, clothing, cameras, and other items.

Auditors also found a lack of management oversight over purchasing, sponsorships, and contracts. Some examples included in the report are the Department's purchase of a used aircraft for $1.8 million without a proper inspection that could cost the state up to $580,000 in repairs as significant damage to the plane's landing gear was found after the Department took possession of it; $283,675 spent on clothing and uniform purchases for Department employees that were made without a formal uniform policy; $220,000 spent on a Catamaran that was used twice between 2012 and 2016 and appeared to have little or no benefit to the agency, and $188,805 paid for sponsorship agreements that may have been a violation of the Louisiana Constitution as a donation of public funds.

Auditors documented additional findings relating to improper oversight of the Louisiana Saltwater Series or the License to Win! Sweepstakes that may have resulted in donations of state resources or ineffective programs; and to not properly accounting for property, including drones and guns.

Auditors made 15 recommendations for changes. Department management provided corrective actions on all recommendations and pledged cooperation with the auditors in addressing the deficiencies.