SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — A state audit released Tuesday is blaming at least four years' worth of lax accounting for misstating the balance of a state oil spill fund by millions of dollars.
Lawmakers passed a fee increase last year for the Oil Spill Prevention and Administration Fund based in part on those inaccurate figures, according to State Auditor Elaine Howle, whose office released the report. The oil spill fund, which is funded by a fee applied to each barrel of oil delivered to the state, was not properly reconciled until earlier this year.
The audit comes as lawmakers and state budget officials are increasing scrutiny on hundreds of special funds after finding a $54 million surplus in the parks department. The governor's finance department found its balances and the figures kept by the state controller's office off in some funds by hundreds of millions of dollars.
According to the audit, which examined the fiscal years between 2006-07 and 2010-11, the governor's budget misstated the amount of money in the oil spill fund by millions of dollars. In one year, it was overstated by $4.5 million and understated by $1 million in another year.
"These misstatements were, in part, a result of fish and game's budget branch not having written procedures directing staff to reconcile the spill fund's financial condition to the state controller's office records," Howle wrote. "Moreover, the analysts in fish and game's budget branch lacked experience and training regarding the preparation of fund condition statements."
Last year the Legislature authorized the Office of Spill Prevention and Response under Department of Fish and Game to raise fees for the spill prevention fund from 5-cents a barrel to almost 7 cents through 2015.
At the time, lawmakers said the funds for the oil spill prevention program would run a projected $5.2 million deficit and not have enough revenue to support its workload.
The audit found the spill office's projections were inaccurate because it didn't verify the figures it used. One factor was that the spill office apparently undercharged the federal government by $27.3 million for its share of administrative costs.
The federal government is allowing the state to recover that money over the next three fiscal years.