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PARKS AUDIT REVEALS INATTENTION TO FINANCES

January 24, 2004 – Those modest user fees meant to defray the cost of running national parks may have been slipping into local pockets instead. A federal audit details several ways in which the Park Service's inattention to financial details left the door open to abuse at St. Croix National Park sites.
The report, issued last week by the U.S. Department of Interior's Inspector General's office, does not document any wrongdoing but does show how easy it would be to pilfer relatively small sums from parking and entrance fees. It also notes weaknesses in the St. Croix parks' dealings with concessionaires, including a lack of support documentation for the franchise fees paid by concessionaires. The audit covered fiscal years 2001 and 2002.
In his response, Joel A. Tutein, NPS superintendent of Buck Island Reef National Monument and Christiansted National Historic Site, blamed the lapses on shortages in staff and funding. According to the report, the park service has taken steps to comply with all the audit recommendations.
During the time of the audit, six concessionaires provided water taxi services to Buck Island Reef National Monument. Although the NPS is ultimately responsible for that service, the audit found that park officials failed to make regular safety checks of the boats and crew and did not ensure that they were properly insured and licensed.
The park service also took a laissez-faire approach to collecting fees from the concessionaires. Each concession is supposed to pay the NPS a monthly fee equal to two percent of its gross receipts, but the parks on St. Croix often did not verify those figures. Moreover, St. Croix parks were routinely tardy in depositing payments, averaging a delay of two months.
At Fort Christiansvaern and the Steeple Building there was no way to verify how many people actually paid the $3 entrance fee. The cash register could print duplicate receipts, without recording the duplicate. Thus, it was possible for a ticket taker to issue "receipts" to two visitors, while recording payment only from one.
Similarly, there was no control over parking fees, except tallying up the number of machine-generated tickets against receipts. Additionally, anyone could mark a ticket "non-paying" – a legitimate designation for vehicles on official business – and it would not be counted against the total. In one 24-hour sample period, auditors found 45 tickets marked "non-paying," for a total revenue loss of $180.
In response to the report, the park service has purchased a new cash register for visitors fees and limited the personnel who are allowed to designate a vehicle as "non-paying."

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January 24, 2004 – Those modest user fees meant to defray the cost of running national parks may have been slipping into local pockets instead. A federal audit details several ways in which the Park Service's inattention to financial details left the door open to abuse at St. Croix National Park sites.
The report, issued last week by the U.S. Department of Interior's Inspector General's office, does not document any wrongdoing but does show how easy it would be to pilfer relatively small sums from parking and entrance fees. It also notes weaknesses in the St. Croix parks' dealings with concessionaires, including a lack of support documentation for the franchise fees paid by concessionaires. The audit covered fiscal years 2001 and 2002.
In his response, Joel A. Tutein, NPS superintendent of Buck Island Reef National Monument and Christiansted National Historic Site, blamed the lapses on shortages in staff and funding. According to the report, the park service has taken steps to comply with all the audit recommendations.
During the time of the audit, six concessionaires provided water taxi services to Buck Island Reef National Monument. Although the NPS is ultimately responsible for that service, the audit found that park officials failed to make regular safety checks of the boats and crew and did not ensure that they were properly insured and licensed.
The park service also took a laissez-faire approach to collecting fees from the concessionaires. Each concession is supposed to pay the NPS a monthly fee equal to two percent of its gross receipts, but the parks on St. Croix often did not verify those figures. Moreover, St. Croix parks were routinely tardy in depositing payments, averaging a delay of two months.
At Fort Christiansvaern and the Steeple Building there was no way to verify how many people actually paid the $3 entrance fee. The cash register could print duplicate receipts, without recording the duplicate. Thus, it was possible for a ticket taker to issue "receipts" to two visitors, while recording payment only from one.
Similarly, there was no control over parking fees, except tallying up the number of machine-generated tickets against receipts. Additionally, anyone could mark a ticket "non-paying" – a legitimate designation for vehicles on official business – and it would not be counted against the total. In one 24-hour sample period, auditors found 45 tickets marked "non-paying," for a total revenue loss of $180.
In response to the report, the park service has purchased a new cash register for visitors fees and limited the personnel who are allowed to designate a vehicle as "non-paying."

Back Talk



Share your reaction to this news with other Source readers. Please include headline, your name, and the city and state/country or island where you reside.

Publisher's note : Like the St. Croix Source now? Find out how you can love us twice as much -- and show your support for the islands' free and independent news voice... click here.