Audit of marine board reveals wasteful spending

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The Oregon State Marine Board was found to have a "frequent disregard for state rules and policies and a casual attitude toward expenditure of public funds," according to the secretary of state's audits division.

"Controls were lacking, certain expenditures were questionable, equipment and services were not procured appropriately, state property was not disposed of properly and assets were not always adequately safeguarded," the audit found.

The review was conducted upon the retirement of former director Paul Donheffner, who retired effective Nov. 30, 2009 and left the board Jan. 31.

Oregon law authorizes the division to perform an audit or review when the executive head of a state agency leaves that position for any reason. In addition, the governor's office asked the division to review the board's financial practices.

Questionable practices included costs for meals and hotel rooms in excess of the state-approved per diem rates, not seeking competitive pricing when purchasing boats and not sufficiently protecting the board's assets, according to the report.

In fiscal 2009, the board received 32 percent of its funds (approximately $5.8 million) from registrations, titles and other fees and 29 percent of its funds (approximately $5.3 million) from powerboat fuel taxes, according to the report.

In response to the audit, new director Scott Brewen promised changes.

"The Marine Board is committed to making the necessary changes to ensure that we meet the letter and spirit of the rules and policies governing state agencies," he said in a letter to the audits division. "We invite the secretary of state to conduct a follow-up audit at a future time that they deem appropriate to monitor the Marine Board's corrective actions and compliance with applicable policies."

The board was established in 1959 to register and title recreational vessels, establish statewide boating regulations, promote uniformity of state and federal boating laws, as well as advise and fund county and state marine law enforcement. In addition, the board provides grants to local governments and state agencies to develop and maintain accessible boating facilities and protect water quality.

Click here for the full report.

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