A new audit Friday revealed millions of dollars in unspent donations and other financial irregularities at California's state parks department, six months after the agency's director resigned in a scandal over hidden money.
Last July, former director Ruth Coleman stepped down amid revelations that the department had hidden $54million in state funds from budget officials while the governor was threatening to close parks to save money.
The audit, released Friday by the state Department of Finance, did not uncover embezzlement or missing money.
But it did reveal what auditors concluded was "minimal oversight by executive management" and "inadequate controls" in the way the department keeps its books, trains its staff and oversees private donations.
"We found risks that could put the department at risk of possible abuse, waste and fraud if controls aren't strengthened," said Frances Parmelee, a CPA and audit manager of the state finance department.
Among the problems:
· State parks staff members failed to spend $3.9million in a fund meant for donations and bequests. The total fund balance is $20million. Although there is no evidence that parks officials were spending donations in ways other than donors intended, some of the $3.9million, which came from interest and donations that hadn't been given for a specific purpose, has sat unspent since as far back as 2004.
· The department did not provide clear rules or oversight of employee credit cards. As a result, auditors found $3,351 spent on unallowable items, including memberships in professional organizations, two-way radios and high-speed Internet service.
· Budget managers have not provided clear training and policies for lower-level employees to ensure the agency's funds are consistently and accurately reported to other state departments.
State parks officials said they are already correcting the deficiencies.
"State parks sees this evaluation as a catalyst for improving all systems," said Major Gen. Anthony Jackson, a former Marine commander whom Gov. Jerry Brown appointed as the new state parks director last month. "And we are confident that by incorporating all recommendations for improvements, state parks will be stronger and more accountable."
The audit also confirmed that the $54million that parks employees had kept in two accounts for years without reporting it to the Department of Finance or governor's budget officials was accurate and is not any larger than previously reported. They said the concealment of funds dates back at least to 1993, but could not offer a reason why.
Some sources have said that it originated with an accounting formula glitch that midlevel employees did not want to reveal for fear of reprimand.