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WASHINGTON DEPARTMENT OF FISH AND WILDLIFE     Print Version
NEWS RELEASE
600 Capitol Way North, Olympia, WA 98501-1091


November 10, 1998
Contact: Tim Waters, (360) 902-2262

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WDFW embraces consultant's recommendations to improve business practices

OLYMPIA--An independent consultant's report critical of the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife's business practices will serve as a road map for improving the agency, WDFW officials said Tuesday.

"We welcome the report and its recommendations for improvements," said WDFW Acting Director Larry Peck. "We expect to work closely in the coming months with the governor, legislators, the state Office of Financial Management (OFM) and others to correct the problems outlined in the report."

"The report provides the department with a much-needed compass," Peck added. "It provides us with needed direction as we work to correct our deficiencies and strive to put our financial house in order."

The report, ordered by the 1998 Legislature after it was discovered that WDFW faced an $17.4 million budget shortfall, was prepared by Talbot, Korvola & Warwick, a private consulting firm based in Portland, Ore. Scores of WDFW employees statewide were interviewed by TKW for the study, which was conducted over the past several months under the direction of OFM.

The report notes that in recent years the department has focused on resource programs and field activities at the expense of administrative and financial systems and personnel. Over the past five years, administrative staff has been trimmed by 43 percent.

As a result, license revenue collection and account reconciliation practices have been deficient; WDFW managers have been operating without sound and timely financial information; program and project costs have been understated, and budget staff have not provided effective oversight and monitoring, according to the report.

In all, the consultant recommends improvements in 23 areas of the department's business systems and practices, including revenue projection, budget monitoring, cost accounting, inventory and fleet management systems.

Peck said some of the problems outlined in the report stem from the 1994 merger of the former departments of Fisheries and Wildlife. Business systems which served the smaller departments were not sufficient for the larger and more complex merged agency.

In recent months WDFW has taken some steps to improve business practices, including reconciling outstanding payments from license dealers, establishing a monthly revenue tracking and reporting system and revising inventory policies, Peck added.

Additionally, the department has placed business system improvements as its top priority in the 1999-2001 biennial budget recently submitted to OFM.

"I am convinced the department can move forward in an expeditious fashion and put itself on firm financial footing," Peck said.

Independent Consultant Review
of the Department of Fish and Wildlife

Summary

Major Findings

1. The agency is passionate about its mission and has believed that administrative functions diminish rather than support that mission.

2. The administrative infrastructure has deteriorated due to the lack of investment in systems and people over and extended period of time.

  • Administrative staff have been cut by 43% over a period when program staff were cut 1%.
  • Administrative managers are not paid at parity with program managers. Key people continue to leave.
  • The agency has diverted approved federal indirect rate dollars from administration to program activities in the past few years.
3. Virtually all of DFW's administrative systems and processes need improvements to provide adequate financial management support.

Recommendations

The consultants make recommendations in 23 categories which fall into five themes:

1. Update or implement information technology systems to help with accuracy and timeliness of information.

2. Simplify accounting structures and processes.

3. Implement and enforce controls and procedures.

4. Define roles and responsibilities and do some reorganization to better align financial management responsibilities and authority.

5. Restore an appropriate level of emphasis on administrative functions and on the corporate infrastructure and management needs.

Critical Success Factors

DFW will need help in implementing these recommendations. Even if funds were immediately available to assist them, they lack the necessary staff in numbers, skill and experience to implement the recommendations without assistance. They will need managers, project staff, technical assistance and quality assurance. The consultants will now be providing limited implementation assistance in some key areas as a kick-start.

For a copy of the report, contact Lynn McGuire, Office of Financial Management, (360) 902-0581.