Findings released from special examination of KY Dept of Fish & Wildlife

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FRANKFORT, Ky. (WTVQ) – The state auditor’s office has released the results of a special examination of the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources.

State Auditor Mike Harmon says his office began the examination of the department after receiving a letter from Don Parkinson, Secretary of the Tourism, Arts and Heritage Cabinet asking for a special examination of the agency, which is part of the cabinet.

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According to Harmon, in Fiscal Year 2017, the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources received more than $70 million in funding. In fiscal year 2016, 57 percent of their revenue came from license sales for fishing and hunting and boating registrations, and 35 percent came from federal tax dollars through grants.

Harmon says the report details 11 findings and recommendations for the cabinet and Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources leadership.

Among the findings detailed in the exam:

• Co-mingling of restricted funds between the Kentucky Wetland and Stream Mitigation Fund, and the Fish and Game Fund. Since Fiscal Year 2013, KDFWR has transferred approximately $1 million on an annual basis from the Mitigation Fund to the Fish and Game Fund, which is not in compliance with state law and an agreement with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
• Use of the Kentucky Fish and Wildlife Foundation, which is a charitable organization for promotion of wildlife education and wetlands preservation, to circumvent state procurement laws. Among the purchases identified by auditors included the purchase of $750 of alcohol by a KDFWR employee, who was reimbursed by the Foundation, for an event. State law prohibits the purchase of alcohol with public dollars, and is one of several examples auditors found that appeared to be attempts to circumvent procurement laws, including KDFWR funding the salary of the Foundation’s executive director.
• More than $20,000 was spent on pre-paid debit cards for volunteers in KDFWR’s hunting education program. Some of the money used to purchase the cards came from federal tax dollars, which could be a violation of federal law.
• Thousands of dollars spent on meals for KDFWR staff, land owners, and volunteers for several award banquets, including the Commissioner Awards Banquet held each December.
• Special commission elk permits were awarded with poorly maintained documentation, and some applications were not disqualified even though they did not meet the requirements of administrative regulations.
• Failure to properly monitor contracts to determine whether the public dollars being spent were efficient and effective, including paying a total of $550,000 from Fiscal Year 2008 to 2017 to a conservation group toward a breeding ground for ducks in Canada. Data from that conservation group showed that only 10 percent of the ducks that migrate to Kentucky come from that Canadian location.
• Prepayments of more than $70,000 between Fiscal Year 2015 and 2017 to an outside marketing and advertising firm without determining services were received.

The full report, along with the separate Fiscal Year 2017 audit of KDFWR, can be found on the auditor’s website.