© 2023 St. Louis Public Radio
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations

Agency overseeing Missouri's state parks gets low marks

Bennett Springs.jpg
(via Flickr/rjones0856)
Trout fishermen in Bennett Springs State Park. An report from state auditor Tom Schweich has given the division that oversees Mo. state parks low marks.

State Auditor Tom Schweich has given the agency that oversees Missouri's state parks low marks for its documentation and oversight procedures.

The Division of State Parks, within the Department of Natural Resources, oversees the state's 85 parks and historical sites. The sites bring in about $9 million annually, with about $1.7 million coming from 16 companies that provide food, lodging and other concessions at some of the parks. The division also administers the state parks sales tax, which totals about $38 million a year.

In a report released today, Schweich gave the division a "fair" rating - the third lowest on his scale. It means the entity needs to improve its operations in several areas, and that the report had several findings. For the Division of State Parks, that includes:

  • No recent audits of parks like Bennett Springs or Onondaga Cave (which generate the most revenue) to ensure they are properly handling their cash collections. Schweich also noted that the division has not performed an on-site review at any of the 85 sites since 2008, nor have officials developed standard monitoring procedures.
  • Failure to enforce documentation requirements for concessionaires. Schweich's report noted that one vendor made extra payments from 2006 through 2011 without any explanation, and that the state parks division also failed to ask for documentation to back up requests for credits that concessionaires can request for utilities. There are also no alternate plans to review the information on-site.
  • No review of cash handling procedures until March 2011. (The audit covered 2009, 2010 and the first six months of 2011).
  • Problems with small funds that parks set aside for incidental expenses. In some cases, the balance differed from the $1,500 maximum allowed by state law.
  • Issues with handling cash and deposits, including not closing out the register at the end of the day, or not training all employees to handle that job.
  • Incomplete records of capital assets, and a failure to perform timely inventories of non-land assets (such as equipment). The report notes that until March 2011, a capital asset inventory had not been done since 2006.
  • Poor record-keeping on procurement cards.
  • A policy manual that had not been updated since 2006. Park officials noted in their response to Schweich's findings that they were working on updating the manual, and would post it electronically to make future revisions easier.

The report does not report any wrong-doing, but notes that incomplete procedures, or a failure to follow them, makes it harder to detect wrong-doing.
Officials with the Division of State Parks agreed with Schweich's findings.

Rachel is the justice correspondent at St. Louis Public Radio.

Send questions and comments about this story to feedback@stlpublicradio.org.