Audit finds money handling, internal control issues with Louisiana state museums

Published 3:40 pm Tuesday, May 30, 2023

Money handling and internal control issues persist at the Office of Lieutenant Governor and Department of Culture, Recreation, and Tourism, according to a recent audit.

Louisiana Legislative Auditor Mike Waguespack issued a financial audit last week that evaluated controls, financial reporting, and compliance with laws and regulations between July 1, 2020 and June 30, 2022.

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Auditors found the Office of State Museums did not properly monitor guest stays at an apartment designated for museum-related purposes, and did not ensure prior authorization for purchases using funds from the Irby Public Trust.

With the former, auditors reviewed all guest stays in the apartment guest approval log between July 2020 and April 2022 and flagged eight: two with a vague purpose; three for Office of Lieutenant Governor or non-museum personnel; and three that were donated as raffles or auction items for fundraising unrelated to the museum.

Auditors also reviewed 30 expenditures from the trust over the same time frame and discovered six that lacked evidence of prior authorization, and three that exceeded the total of the approved purchase order.

“LSM policy requires prior authorization for all purchases, except when there is a written authorization for self-approval,” auditors wrote. “LSM did not consistently ensure prior approvals were obtained for Trust expenditures.”

Other issues involved deposits for the Wedell-Williams Aviation and Cypress Sawmill Museum. The Wedell-Williams Memorial Foundation agreed to pay admission fees in 2013 to keep the museum free to the public. Auditors found for the third consecutive engagement that the money wasn’t timely deposited, with 68% deposited between three and 10 days after receiving the check.

State law “requires money received by a state agency to be deposited immediately upon receipt, understood to mean within 24 hours, in the State Treasury,” the report read.

Controls over admission fee waivers and discounts at state parks were also lacking, auditors found for a second consecutive engagement.

“Based on our review of certain admission fee waivers and discounts for two days selected at seven state parks and historic places with admission fees, we identified 98 admission fee waivers and discounts … that were granted without a written request from the potential users of the waivers and discounts and without evidence of the assistant secretary’s authorization, as required by OSP policies and procedures,” auditors wrote.

The waivers were from Bayou Segnette State Park, Bogue Chitto State Park, Fontainebleau State Park, Jimmie Davis State Park, and Rosedown Plantation and Historic Site.

Travel expenditures at the Department of Culture, Recreation and Tourism were an issue, as well.

A review of 40 expenditures identified four that included costs not approved by a prior authorization form, one that exceeded limits in state travel policy, one with authorization granted after travel, and one without an approved authorization form.