Audit criticizes Va. parks, conservation agency

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Local,Virginia

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — The Department of Conservation and Recreation owes $500,000 in taxes on sales at concessions at Virginia parks, a critical audit found.

The lagging tax payments were among 93 instances of poor practices and a lack of agency policy cited by the Office of the Auditor of Public Accounts. The audit was posted online Monday.

The audit of the department that operates the state's 36 parks and oversees land conservation was done at the request of the Senate Finance Committee. Auditors met in February with the department's managers who said they "had significant concerns over internal controls and compliance agency-wide."

The department's new director, Clyde E. Cristman, said he has no complaints with the review.

"Not only do we concur with all findings contained in the report, but as you know we have already begun taking action to correct many of the issues identified," Cristman wrote in a letter date June 4 to Martha S. Mavredes, the state's lead auditor.

On the outstanding tax bill, the audit said the department has no policies or procedures regarding the proper collection, recording and payment of sales taxes. It recommended the department submit the delinquent bill "as soon as possible."

Among the other key findings, the audit found that the department:

— has no leasing agreement with workers at 94 housing units at state parks. Four employees who have housing outside state parks also lack leasing agreements. That housing is not owned by the state. The audit said the lack of leases leaves workers and the agency at risk if, for example, a worker is fired or the property is damaged.

— did not properly monitor small purchase charge cards, which were issued to 269 of the department's 931 workers. The lack of oversight resulted in some employees obtaining cards to which they were not entitled. Payments for card charges were not itemized to include alcoholic beverages — which were not an allowable charge — were purchased. One payment also included a $100 tip on a $377.57 bill.

Fifteen of the audit's findings dealt with credit cards. Travel policies, procurement and information technology also were cited up to nine times in the audit.

Auditors said their work would likely not be the final word on the department, saying that with "a weak control environment at the agency, it is possible that management will uncover additional issues as they implement agency-wide controls."

The Virginian-Pilot first reported on the audit.

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Online:

Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation:

http://www.dcr.virginia.gov/pr_relz.shtml

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Steve Szkotak can be reached on Twitter at http://twitter.com/sszkotakap

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