In 2014 , the Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism (KDWPT) purchased several tracts of land in Jefferson County for recreation and conservation purposes. KDWPT needed to comply with several state and federal requirments in order to purchase the Jefferson County land. We found that KDWPT demonstrated compliance with most, but not all of those state and federal requirements. Additionally, KDWPT paid about $20,000 for a 14-acre tract of land as part of the acquisition, but never actually acquired legal ownership of the property. Finally, KDWPT’s land purchase procedures lacked guidance on how to comply with state legal requirements.
State Agency Information Systems: Reviewing Security Controls in Selected State Agencies – Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism (CY 2015)
We evaluated six important IT security controls and the comprehensive IT security management process at nine state agencies. We found that most agencies’ IT security controls we reviewed were not strong enough to help ensure that confidential information was adequately protected. Moreover, most agencies had weak controls to help ensure strong and secure staff passwords, and almost all agencies did a poor job of patching software vulnerabilities for both workstations and servers. Most agencies did not adequately train staff on IT security issues, and none of the agencies had fully developed and tested a continuity of operations plan. While most agencies adequately controlled their IT inventory, four agencies were missing or had lost track of computers. On the other hand, we found only a few problems with network access points, which were largely controlled by the Office of Information Technology Services. None of the agencies had a fully developed security management process, but all nine had at least some process components. Finally, security controls were far stronger at agencies where management made IT security a priority.
State Hiring Practices: Determining Whether Requirements Related To Veterans’ Preferences Are Being Met
State law provides that eligible veterans who meet the minimum and preferred qualifications for a State classified job be offered an interview. Of the 426 veterans’ applications reviewed, there were only two instances where a veteran should have been interviewed, but wasn’t—both times because of an oversight acknowledged by agency officials. The reasons most veterans weren’t interviewed were because they didn’t meet minimum and preferred qualifications for the job or submitted incomplete application materials. In addition, we couldn’t conclude whether agencies mailed a certified letter to each veterans’ preference applicant as required by State law and identified several smaller issues that need to be addressed to make the veterans’ preference law more efficient and cost effective. These include considering eliminating the statutory requirement that State agencies have to mail certified letters to veterans not hired, giving guidance to State agencies on what documentation they should keep to show they mailed a certified letter to each veteran applicant, and advising State agencies to wait a certain period of time after a job closes to print a list of applicants to be considered for the job.
Water-Related Agencies: Determining Whether the State Could Achieve Efficiencies and Reduce Costs by Combining the Operations of Its Water-Related Agencies
Although Kansas has several agencies involved in water management, the organizational structure isn’t out of line compared to other western states. In addition, we found very few problems with the current structure, and State and local officials told us the system doesn’t need significant changes. State officials went on to cite the Natural Resources Sub-Cabinet as a major reason for better coordination among water-related agencies. We estimated that creating a single State water agency may yield between $300,000 and $7 million in administrative savings, with the actual savings likely to be on the lower end of that estimate. We also identified a few opportunities for State agencies to improve their coordination and make their programs more efficient without consolidating. Those opportunities include having field staff from different agencies collaborate, improve the monitoring of Watershed Restoration and Protection Strategies (WRAPS) projects and taking steps to share water data more efficiently among themselves and with the public.
Department of Wildlife and Parks: Reviewing Issues Related to the Walk-In Hunting Access Program
In general, the Department of Wildlife and Parks has reasonable policies and procedures to identify and prevent conflicts of interest. However, those policies and procedures could be strengthened by having a more centralized reporting process, having upper management periodically review what’s been reported, and more explicitly specifying consequences for non-compliance with policies. We didn’t identify any Walk-In Hunting Access Program staff with outside employment that represented a conflict of interest. However, we found one instance in 2005 where the Department approved an employee’s request to lease some land to hunters for a fee. That situation had the appearance of a conflict of interest, although the employee reported that he never actually leased the land. Finally, we noted the Department could improve the way it maintains information about land leased through the Program by keeping its databases current, and by assigning a unique and static number to each lease.
Department of Wildlife and Parks: Reviewing Its Lease of the Campus House for Its Northeast Regional Office (limited-scope audit)
The Department of Wildlife and Parks generally followed State law and leasing guidelines when it leased the Campus House on the former Menninger campus for its northeast regional office. But the facility is much larger than it originally advertised for, than recommended in the Governor’s space standards, or than is common in other regional or park offices. Department officials chose the location because of the possibility of getting adjacent land donated as a State Park. Before moving in, the Department spent more than $113,000 to remodel the facility. The lease agreement doesn’t include provisions allowing the Department to recoup any of those remodeling costs, or establishing a purchase price. Recent appraisals of the Campus House property in the $700,000-plus range are nearly triple the appraised value in 2004 when the lease was signed. The final purchase price for the building and property will determine whether this transaction is financially beneficial to the State.
Compliance and Control Audit: Department of Wildlife and Parks
The Department hadn't established adequate procedures for documenting, tracking, or disposing of items that had been seized. Most law enforcement officers who responded to our survey told us they'd received sufficient training but that they needed more guidance, especially with the disposal of items no longer needed as evidence. Before this audit was approved, the Department had begun drafting new procedures, but the draft procedures we saw didn't address all of the weaknesses we identified. People we talked to both inside and outside the Department said they weren't aware of problems with seized items being used inappropriately.
State-Held-Lands: Reviewing the Management and Use of Those Lands in Kansas
Kansas lacked a good centralized system for inventorying and managing State-owned and leased land. Through direct surveys of all State agencies we learned that they owned more than 335,600 acres and leased another 256,000 acres for State use. Most of that land was used for highway right-of-way and for parks and wildlife habitat. About 4,800 acres worth $6.9 million was potentially surplus. Nothing would prevent the State from selling this land, but conditions, like toxic waste on some parcels, may make it difficult to sell. State agencies will continue to have little incentive to identify surplus lands, despite a new law requiring that guidelines and criteria for identifying and selling surplus land be put into place. The new law didn't set up an independent authority to make the decision about whether potentially surplus land should be sold, and it lacked a financial incentive for agencies to sell land. When agencies lease out State-owned land, they usually do it on a competitive-bid basis; only 4 agencies weren't using competitive bids to let their leases or didn't rebid the leases frequently enough. Finally, we found a few cases where agencies weren't paying property taxes on land when they should have been, and at least one case where an agency was paying taxes it shouldn't have been paying.
Reviewing the Department of Wildlife and Parks’ Management of Lands Leased for Farming and Grazing (100-hour audit)
For State-owned lands the Department of Wildlife and Parks leases, the agreements require the farmer or rancher to “pay” the Department through “in-kind” services—such as paying vendors for items purchased by the Department, paying contract laborers for work done on Department lands, or performing services for the Department at a set hourly rate. The revenues and payments from this activity aren’t included in the usual budgeting processes. Department officials cite a number of benefits from this practice, including providing them with greater flexibility in how to spend the moneys on improvements within their areas. Although the Department generally has established and followed some good practices regarding the management of these leases, we also found a number of problems with the way these leases or lease payments were handled. This included allowing the amount tenants “hold” for the Department to grow to unacceptably high amounts. We saw one case where the tenant was holding more than $25,000. The Department has since recovered that money in cash.
Compliance and Control Audit: Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks
The Corps of Engineers has said the State owes $8.5 million for its share of the development of El Dorado State Park. The amount increased significantly over the years because of changes to original design plans and inflation. We found that the Corps’ worksheets and accounting records generally support its final cost figures. Some cost issues still need to be resolved, but the effect of these on the amount owed by the State is relatively minor. Although original supporting documents such as contracts and invoices may no longer be available, the Park Authority (later the Department of Wildlife and Parks) provided oversight throughout the project, and was actively involved in planning the Park, making changes to those plans, monitoring construction, and reviewing contracts. If the State makes annual payments to the Corps for the next 32 years, total payments with interest will amount to about $15 million.
Department of Wildlife and Parks, Conservation Commission, Water Office - FY 1994
In general, we found the Department’s financial management practices were not adequate to provide needed accountability for restricted moneys, leading the Department to violate State law and misspend nearly $4 million of wildlife and park moneys during fiscal years 1989-1992. Combining parks and public wildlife area staff as a result of the merger created efficiencies that were negated when the Department recently separated those two functions because of the diversion problem. The Department has met some of its goals such as increasing outdoor recreational opportunities and ensuring the public’s safe and legal use of recreation resources; however, it has not improved its wildlife habitat resources or maintained facilities as it should. The Department’s combination of parks and public wildlife area staffs in one division is different from most other states. The Department also has a general layer of management not found in other states, and has devoted proportionally more of its employee resources to support activities and less to field activities than other states we reviewed.
Assessing the Department of Wildlife and Parks’ Compliance With Certain Federal Requirements Related to Fish and Wildlife Programs
In March 1994, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service suspended all federal payments to the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks for diverting as much as $4.4 million in hunting and fishing license fees to unallowed purposes during fiscal years 1989 through 1992, for not meeting $3.5 million in State spending requirements for fisheries, and for other financial control weaknesses. We found the Department ended up diverting $1.7 million of license fees and related federal reimbursements to unallowed purposes -- primarily parks. Significant financial management problems led to this situation, including overriding existing financial controls and ignoring internal staff warnings that the Department was diverting restricted moneys to unallowed purposes. Finally, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s conclusion that the Department fell short of meeting federal requirements for minimum State spending on fisheries was accurate.
Compliance and Control Audit: Selected Conservation Agencies
Construction expenditures for the Milford Fish Hatchery have been about $4.6 million to date, substantially less than the $6 million cost that was projected. Milford Hatchery has not produced as many fish as planning documents projected, or as many as it has been assigned to produce. It also has not been able to reduce fish production costs as projected. Naturally occurring pollutants in the primary source of water chosen by the Department -- an outlet lake below the dam -- have caused most of the problems the Hatchery has had with diseased and dying fish since it opened. Water quality in the outlet lake seems to be improving, but another big concern for the Hatchery’s long-term operations may be the limited amounts of water available. Both improved management techniques and improved recordkeeping are needed to overcome existing problems and minimize future ones.
Developing Recreational Facilities at Hillsdale Reservoir
More information is needed from the Park and Resources Authority and the private developer from Spring Hill about their specific proposals for developing public-use recreastional facilities at Hillsdale. Whether that development is provided with State or private funds, options now being considered envision a $3 million initial development, with half being supplied by federal cost-share funds.