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Minnesota Pollution Control Agency has lax accounting safeguards, says auditor

A report by the Minnesota Office of the Legislative Auditor found a number of problems with the state Pollution Control Agency’s accounting systems, including neglecting to scrub banking data that auditors said could be used to commit fraud.

The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (PCA) is responsible for monitoring and enforcing environmental standards in the state. For the final quarter of 2010, the PCA had an accounts receivable balance of $8.2 million, with errors of $6.2 million.

Auditors found that the PCA hadn’t created adequate controls to monitor regulatory fines or penalties the agency received. Because the PCA didn’t safeguard or keep daily logs of receipts, auditors found that checks could have been lost or stolen without the agency’s knowledge.

The PCA also failed to “redact not public information, such as bank routing and account numbers.” The agency allowed employees without a business need to access the information, which auditors said employees could use to “commit fraud against the check writer.”

The PCA also neglected to safeguard non-public data, which was available for all agency employees to view, and which 52 employees could edit, auditors found.

The lax financial controls led to errors in the PCA’s quarterly report, the audit found.

“For the quarter ended December 31, 2010, the agency reported about $8.2 million of accounts receivable to the Department of Management and Budget; however, the report had significant errors and concerns, totaling about $6.2 million.”

Those errors included an overstatement of superfund receivables by $4.5 million, including $3 million where the agency had already either settled and failed to adjust the balance or didn’t post the payments to the debtor’s account.

The report concludes that the agency was ultimately unable to substantiate hundreds of thousands of dollars in regulatory penalties due to the lax controls.

Auditors recommend that the PCA institute safeguards for its accounts receivables, limit the workers who have access to view and edit non-public data and that Office of Management and Budget provide more oversight for all state agencies on dealing with account receivables.

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