Audit Division
Audit Summary

Department of Conservation and
Natural Resources
Division of Environmental Protection

Report LA96-12

Results in Brief

The Division lacks controls to effectively oversee enforcement actions and follow-up on periodic inspections. Where controls exist, they were not always followed. As a result, enforcement action was sometimes slow and did not ensure problems identified during inspections were corrected. The penalty process was at times inconsistent and files lacked documentation to support many agency decisions. Additionally, these weaknesses have contributed to an ineffective process for managing cases and unreliable program information.

Principal Findings

1. Because DEP did not always follow its Enforcement Manual, violations of state water pollution laws and regulations continued for years without being corrected. About of the cases we reviewed contained violations that exceeded Enforcement Manual time frames. (page 8)

2. Inspection files lacked documentation showing that problems identified during inspections were corrected. About 87% of inspection reports we reviewed lacked documentation that problems were corrected.(page 11)

3. Because DEP's Civil Penalty Policy was not always followed, penalties for violations of state water pollution laws and regulations were not imposed in a consistent manner. We identified cases where DEP criteria for determining penalty amounts were not used. This could raise questions about the fairness of decisions. (page 12)

4. Enforcement case files did not contain adequate documentation to support agency decisions and actions. Of 53 cases reviewed, 51 lacked documentation supporting critical agency decisions. Poor documentation weakens the effectiveness of enforcement action. (page 13)

5. The DEP lacks an effective system for managing basic program information. Information provided on complaints, penalties, and other enforcement actions was not complete, accurate, or reliable. (page 18)