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Audit of Kentucky Fish and Wildlife Department results in referral to KSP, Ethics Commission

Mike Harmon, Kentucky Auditor of Public Accounts, released the Fiscal Year 2015 audit of the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources Wednesday, and announced one finding that will be referred to the Kentucky State Police and the Executive Branch Ethics Commission for further review and consideration.

The finding in question relates to the Department’s failure to maintain proper controls over receipts from the sale of permits for recreational, commercial, scientific, and educational activities relating to fish and wildlife.

State Auditor Mike Harmon (Photo Provided)

State Auditor Mike Harmon (Photo Provided)

An internal investigation by Department management found suspected misappropriation of permit fees in the agency’s central office in Frankfort. The Department properly notified the auditor’s office, law enforcement officials, and the Executive Branch Ethics Commission of the suspected misappropriation.

The subsequent review and testing of the Department’s receipts and receipts database found there were instances where fees paid for permits could not be traced within the system, not allowing for confirmation the money had been deposited.

The Department’s internal investigation identified potentially more than $90,000 in suspected misappropriations since 2007.

“While we appreciate the cooperation and diligence shown by the department in identifying and bringing this issue to light, it is our belief that further investigation by law enforcement and the Executive Branch Ethics Commission is warranted,” said Harmon in releasing the report. “We have also evaluated the processes in place and recommended steps to make sure all fees generated from permit sales are properly deposited, and to prevent and detect any future misappropriation of funds by reconciling all receipts between the databases used by KDFWR.”

The full Fiscal Year 2015 audit of the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources is available for review via our website at auditor.ky.gov.

In response to the audit, Fish and Wildlife Commissioner Gregory K. Johnson issued the following statement:

“Agency staff noticed a discrepancy in daily cash receipts in early January and we immediately initiated an internal investigation. As soon as we concluded our initial investigation, we invited Kentucky State Police to look into this suspected embezzlement. We then brought the matter to the attention of the state auditor’s office and the Kentucky Executive Ethics Commission.

“We appreciate the auditor’s report reaffirming the results of our internal investigation, and its acknowledgement that the Department of Fish and Wildlife took ‘appropriate action upon identifying the perceived misappropriation of assets by communicating the impropriety to the Office of the Auditor of Public Accounts, law enforcement officials, and the Kentucky Executive Branch Ethics Commission.’

“We immediately took action to put stronger internal safeguards in place. We now require all receipts to be verified by multiple staff, including a supervisor. We strive to be good stewards of taxpayer dollars and are committed to doing the right thing.

“This remains an active criminal investigation by Kentucky State Police, and we have been requested not to comment further.”

From Kentucky Auditor’s Office Communications

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