Auditor General DePasquale Encourages DCNR to Adhere to Grant Process, Continue Improving Community Conservation PartnershipsSays $250,000 Grant Was Improperly Awarded; Post-Project Completion Inspections Incomplete
HARRISBURG (Dec. 20, 2013)— Auditor General Eugene DePasquale today released a report showing the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources mishandled a $250,000 grant and failed to ensure that post-project inspections were completed for more than 1,400 Land and Water Conservation Fund projects since 2008.
“While I commend DCNR for making some progress toward better managing the Community Conservation Partnerships Program, our audit found a potentially serious issue with the agency’s grant application and review process,” DePasquale said. “Specifically, DCNR circumvented its established process in awarding a $250,000 grant to a non-profit organization that did not meet the application deadline. To ensure a fair and equal grant process everyone must follow the rules. That didn’t happen here.”
When questioned by auditors, the management at the Bureau of Recreation and Conservation acknowledged the non-profit organization did not submit an application for a $250,000 grant by the deadline, but was guided through the process at the request of the former secretary of DCNR in September 2012. The project was awarded a $250,000 grant in the Community Conservation Partnerships Program but the proposed comfort station/shower house building has not yet materialized because of other issues, including not securing matching funds. DCNR did not provide grant funds as of August.
In its response to the audit finding, DCNR officials defended the grant’s handling, saying it was an executive priority and did meet the grant-awarding requirements. They also objected to being singled out for one project when nearly 350 projects were considered and 198 awarded.
“Additionally, auditors found that DCNR failed to ensure that required post-project inspections were complete for more than 1,400 Land and Water Conservation Fund projects. These inspections help ensure that these projects are adequately maintained and available to the public,” DePasquale said. “Ignoring these inspections could jeopardize federal funds from the National Park Service, which requires the post-completion inspections.”
DePasquale commended the DCNR for establishing a strategic operational plan for future inspections and encourages the DCNR to follow through on 14 recommendations by auditors.
“I am glad to see DCNR taking steps to ensure future inspection oversight is adequate,” he said. “Our community conservation projects are something we should cherish. We need to be good stewards to preserve and enhance these community assets for generations to come.”
The special performance audit covered DCNR operations from July 2008 to June 2013. The DCNR awarded $143.9 million for 1,064 projects since 2009.
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