PolitiCal
On politics in the Golden State
August 14, 2012 | 11:51 am

A state audit released on Tuesday provides new evidence on how loose accounting can lead to inaccurate reports, false alarms and even misguided policies.

The review examined the Oil Spill Prevention and Administration Fund, which collects fees on oil transportation to help fund preparations for environmentally damaging spills. For at least four years, the governor’s office overstated the amount of money in the fund, sometimes by millions of dollars, before correcting the numbers last year.

The audit said that analysts responsible for handling accounting at the Department of Fish and Game, which manages the fund, had no experience and little training for preparing financial documents essential to planning the state’s budget.

Then, in June 2011, department officials said the spill fund would end up $17.7 million in the red by June 2014. Lawmakers sprang into action, jacking up the per-barrel fee charged on oil transfers.

However, the department’s financial calculations were “not as accurate as they could have been,” the audit said, and fees may have been increased more than necessary. That’s partially because the department wasn’t getting all the federal money it was entitled to.

[Updated 4:08 p.m.: Richard Stapler, a spokesman for the California Natural Resources Agency, which oversees the Department of Fish and Game, said the fee increases were necessary and not the result of faulty calculations.

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