Report 94101 Summary - November 1995

Department of Forestry and Fire Protection:

A Review of Allegations Concerning the State's Management of the Federal Excess Personal Property Program

HIGHLIGHTS

We reviewed the CDF's investigation of the misuse of Federal Excess Personal Property (FEPP) and found:

  • For 25 of 28 allegations, the CDF took defendable action, had policies in place, or did not need to take additional action.
  • For three allegations, the CDF determined its employees did not comply with regulations, but concluded no further action was warranted because the State benefited.
  • In addition, although the CDF has improved its handling of FEPP property, we identified several weaknesses in the CDF's system of controls over FEPP.

Results in Brief


The Aviation Management Unit of the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CDF) operates and maintains a fleet of aircraft used in providing fire protection for approximately 36 million acres of publicly and privately owned wildlands. To meet some of its equipment needs, the CDF borrows federal excess personal property (FEPP) from the federal government through the U.S. Forest Service. The CDF began borrowing FEPP, primarily unneeded military equipment, in the mid-seventies as a way to obtain its own fleet of aircraft and spare parts at no cost. The CDF agrees to use the property primarily for fire protection and to secure and return the property when it is no longer needed.

In November 1992, numerous allegations were made dating back to 1982. The allegations involved a variety of issues, including potential theft and misuse of FEPP aircraft and aircraft parts. The State Resources Agency and the CDF investigated the allegations, and the CDF summarized the findings in a report issued in February 1994.

We reviewed the CDF investigation of 28 allegations. The CDF determined that no action was called for in 5 of the allegations because 4 of the alleged events did not violate any law or regulation and the fifth event happened so long ago that verifiable information was not available. For 20 allegations, the CDF did the following:

  • For eight allegations, it took defendable disciplinary or corrective action;
  • For eight other allegations, no additional action was necessary because the evidence did not substantiate the allegation; and
  • For four allegations, no action was necessary because the evidence did not indicate a violation of any law or regulation.

However, for three allegations, the CDF determined that its employees did not comply with state or federal regulations but concluded no further action was warranted because the activities benefited the State. Regardless, the CDF is not relieved of following federal or state requirements even though the State may benefit.

Additionally, we reviewed the CDF's internal controls over the acquisition, disposal, loan, security, and physical inventory count of FEPP to evaluate if these controls adequately protect FEPP. We found the following problems in the CDF's internal controls:

  • The CDF is not counting and reconciling its FEPP inventory;
  • The CDF does not accurately record FEPP in its inventory records;
  • The CDF does not appropriately tag FEPP property as required; and
  • The CDF is not adequately safeguarding FEPP.

Failure to follow the federal regulations for property management of FEPP related to these conditions may result in the suspension of the state FEPP program. Without the program, the CDF would have to purchase aircraft and related parts and equipment at a significant increase in cost to meet its needs in providing fire protection services. Also, FEPP items lost, stolen, or misplaced may go undetected.

Recommendations


The CDF needs to exercise more oversight in administering the FEPP program by complying with state and federal regulations. Additionally, it should follow the federal requirement to perform a physical inventory of accountable FEPP, and it should reconcile its records with the U.S. Forest Service records at least once every two years. Finally, the CDF should maintain accurate equipment records and appropriately tag and safeguard FEPP.

Agency Comments


The CDF generally concurs with the findings and recommendations in the report. The CDF believes the report substantially confirms the results of the prior investigations of the allegations and is hopeful that our findings will assist in bringing closure to these issues. Further, the CDF states that in some areas it has improved its control over state and federal property and in other areas is taking steps to improve its control.


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