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California parks need more improvements, audit says

September 10, 2013|By Chris Megerian
  • Retired Marine Corps Maj. Gen. Anthony Jackson, shown in November, took over the parks system in the wake of last year's accounting scandal.
Retired Marine Corps Maj. Gen. Anthony Jackson, shown in November, took… (Rich Pedroncelli / Associated…)

SACRAMENTO --The California parks department, which was rocked by an accounting scandal last year, still has more work to do, according to a new audit released Tuesday.

The department still lacks a system to track spending at individual parks, the report said, and internal budgets are finalized too slowly to adequately plan park operations.

The report is the second part of a review conducted by the state auditor at the request of California lawmakers. The first part was released in February.

The scandal broke last summer when it was revealed that the department had a surplus of $54 million at the same time the state was threatening to close parks. A subsequent investigation determined roughly $20 million was deliberately hidden by parks officials.

Vicky Waters, a parks spokeswoman, said the department plans to have a new accounting system up and running by the end of the year.

She said there will be a "solid platform" that will help "restore trust and accountability to the department."

The audit also found more examples of employees being inappropriately reimbursed for unused vacation days.

Roughly $42,000 was paid out to several employees in 2010 and 2011, on top of the $271,000 previously discovered by an internal review. The money was distributed before new leadership took over the parks department last year, but the audit said not enough has been done to prevent the practice in the future. 

"Although [the department] disciplined four managers who were involved in the 2011 leave buybacks, it has not changed its processes or provided appropriate training to its staff," the audit said. 

Waters said improvements are still being developed.

“We have been working on this for a number of months," she said. “We’re acting to make sure this does not happen again.”


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Twitter: @chrismegerian

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