Pennsylvania Auditor General Eugene DePasquale released the findings of a three-year audit of the Pennsylvania Game Commission Thursday morning. In its report, DePasquale said the Game Commission needs to do a better job of managing its finances and having better oversight. DePasquale had 43 recommendations for moving forward, the highest he’s ever had for a state agency.
The audit examined the performance of the Game Commission from July 1, 2014 to June 30, 2017.
The Game Commission does not receive money from the general state budget, and DePasquale said the Game Commission fully cooperated with the audit.
The 136-page audit showed that during the audit period, the amount of money in the game fund increased by 48% to over $ 56.1 million. In the latest figure for June 2018, the Game Fund balance was $ 72.8 million, an increase of $ 16.7 million from the end of the audit.
DePasquale noted a lack of effective management in a number of escrow accounts. He said the Game Commission has various escrow accounts holding a total of over $ 6.5 million in addition to the Game Fund’s $ 72.8 million.
The audit questioned the Game Commission’s claim that it cannot take the Game Fund balance into account when developing its budget or making other financial decisions.
DePasquale also said the Game Commission failed to register / deposit oil and gas company royalty checks promptly, citing a case where a company contacted the Game Commission to request that a check be deposited after an extended period of time.
“The commission never imposed interest penalties on overdue payments and did not require the submission of annual production reports, which could have provided an additional layer of accountability,” DePasquale said.
The Game Commission escrow accounts are currently outside the control of the public purse.
In a press release responding to the audit, the Game Commission said it will ask the state treasury department to monitor escrow accounts used to secure money to offset the impacts of development on land from state game, and will clearly identify monetary amounts held in escrow and reserve when reporting agency year-end income and expenses.
“To do our best for wildlife and the people of Pennsylvania, we need to work as efficiently as possible,” Game Commission executive director Bryan Burhans said in the statement. “Almost all of the recommendations proposed by the Office of the Auditor General will further improve the operations of the Gaming Commission and we have started to implement them. I would like to personally thank Auditor General Eugene DePasquale and his staff for their thorough and professional review of our agency. No matter how small, wildlife wins with every improvement we make. “
In its statement, the Game Commission said it would implement the Auditor General’s recommendations. The only recommendation the Game Commission disagreed with was documenting employee hours related to a Game and Wildlife Code requirement.
“The audit did not reveal any misappropriation of funds, but identified a number of procedures that the Gaming Commission can strengthen to ensure sound and transparent budget management.” the statement read.
DePasquale said hunting remains a key part of Pennsylvania’s economy, generating economic benefits estimated at $ 1.6 billion. Sport supports thousands of businesses and related jobs.