Issue Area 1: The West Virginia Geologic and Economic Survey Provides a Necessary Service for the State's Economic Development.
One of the oldest agencies in the state, the West Virginia Geologic and Economic Survey continues a necessary service in furnishing geological information upon request. The Legislative Auditor contacted 20 consumers from a list of 114 customers, and asked six questions about the information and products obtained from the Survey. One hundred percent of those contacted stated that the Survey information is timely, useful and accurate. The majority believe the prices are reasonable. The Survey was found to be a unique source of certain types of information and the staff was praised. A major concern by customers and the Legislative Auditor is the need of modernization of certain information processing sections and improved organization of information.
Records indicate that requests for geological and analytic services and publications have dropped by 819 over the past five years with a corresponding decline in sales revenue of $64,978. However, the agency does not maintain a centralized customer list. Therefore the agency may not have an accurate accounting of the requests or funds received. The lack of a centralized database does not facilitate an adequate accounting of the funds received by the agency, and it creates a risk of fraudulent activity of funds received.
Issue Area 2: A Large Amount of Out-of-State Travel Interferes with the State Geologist's Administrative Responsibilities and Travel that was for Personal Interests Should Not Have Been Paid for by the State.
Travel by the State Geologist was reviewed by the Legislative Auditor to determine compliance with travel rules. During the review of submitted travel expense forms for FY 2000 and FY 2001, it was found that the State Geologist traveled out-of-state 110 days in FY 2000, 73 of which were on weekdays representing 29% of the annual work days in the year. For FY 2001 out-of-state travel totaled 46 days. Some of this travel was to fulfill voluntary obligations as an executive officer in national geologic associations. The Legislative Auditor understands the importance of having a State Geologist who holds leadership positions in such organizations; however, such commitments resulting in being out-of-state a significant amount of time are a hindrance to effectively carrying out the agency's administrative responsibilities. During the two years reviewed, the State Geologist attended about 1/3 of the meetings of state boards, commissions and councils of which he is a member.
All of the State Geologist's travel is approved by a subordinate within the agency of which he is the Director. This is not appropriate protocol. The Bureau of Commerce, which is the oversight agency for the Geological Survey, should approve the State Geologist's travel in order to determine both the appropriateness and the amount of travel to be undertaken.
In addition, some travel should not have been paid for by the State. Several out-of-state trips were for personal endeavors of the State Geologist and had no connection to his responsibilities as the Director of the Survey. The Legislative Auditor recommends that the State Geologist pay back travel costs to the State in the amount of $2,518.44.
Issue 3: The West Virginia Geological and Economic Survey is in Violation of West Virginia Travel Rules.
In FY 2000, the agency submitted 12 travel expense account settlement forms for travel completed 1-8 years ago by the State Geologist. These vouchers totaled $7,506.94 and were paid to the State Geologist. Funds were available through a re-appropriated revolving fund, and the documentation accompanying the forms was original, but the submission of travel forms after 15 days of the completion of travel is in violation of West Virginia Purchasing Division Travel Management Unit travel rules. Because the State Geologist travels extensively, it is important that state travel rules and proper procedures are followed.
Issue 4: The State Geologist Received Incorrect and Duplicate Payments for Attending Coalbed Methane Review Board Meeting.
The State Geologist is a statutory member of the Coalbed Methane Review Board. Documentation shows that the State Geologist received duplicate payments for attending the same meeting. In addition, part of the amounts received included per diem payments. It is a violation of the Ethics Act for a state employee who is being paid through his or her salary to also receive per diem payments for attending a state agency meeting. It may have been an oversight on the part of the GES or the State Geologist in not returning the duplicate payment. It is also understandable that the Office of Oil and Gas, the GES and the State Geologist were not aware of the Ethics Commission's opinion a year and a half earlier. There is no record that either the total duplicate payment or the per diem payments were returned by the State Geologist. Records show that the State Geologist was issued checks totalling $330. Of this amount, he was only entitled to travel expenses of $45. Therefore, the Legislative Auditor recommends that the State Geologist pay to the Office of Oil and Gas the amount of $285.