Auditor recommends more oversight of game commission

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Pennsylvania’s auditor general is calling on the state’s game commission to fix its finances.

A 136-page performance audit of the commission was released on Thursday. It found the Game Fund balance, as of 2018, at $72.8 million. It also found an additional $6.5 million in various escrow accounts.

“What was even more shocking to me, is that, until my audit, the commission’s chief financial officer didn’t even have knowledge of the specific accounts,” said Auditor General Eugene DePasquale.

The auditor general is also calling on the game commission to better monitor gas and oil lease revenues. It earns millions of dollars from leasing land to gas and oil producers but apparently does not monitor or verify leasing royalties to ensure it collects all the money it’s owed.

“Essentially, the commission is relying on gas and oil companies to say how much money they owe,” said DePasquale. “The commission never levied interest penalties on delinquent payments and did not enforce the submission of annual production reports, which could have provided an extra layer of accountability.”

The auditor general also called on independent oversight of the commission’s finances.

The game commission has been requesting an increase in hunting license fees, which the auditor general says he would not recommend given the state of their finances.

“I would be hard-pressed to support any type of fee increases until I was confident that all of these funds were better managed and that there was a real game plan for that $73 million,”  DePasquale said.

The game commission responded on Thursday, saying some of the 40 recommendations made by the auditor general had already been implemented, and they agree to work toward implementing nearly all of them in the future.

“To do our best for Pennsylvania’s wildlife and citizens, we must work as efficiently and effectively as possible,” Game Commission Executive Director Bryan Burhans said in a statement. “Nearly all the recommendations offered by the Auditor General’s office will further improve the Game Commission’s operations, and we have started to implement them.”

The audit covered July 1, 2014, through June 30, 2017.

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