- Associated Press - Wednesday, May 7, 2014

PIERRE, S.D. (AP) - A South Dakota legislative committee reviewed expense reporting issues in the Department of Agriculture that had been identified in the statewide 2013 audit and discussed the agency’s plan to fix the errors on Wednesday.

The audit findings for the department focus on a federal grant for forestry assistance. Agriculture officials say the grant is used for a variety of projects, including brush clearing and addressing the pine beetle infestation in the state.

The Government Operations and Audit Committee reviewed the findings for many departments, but focused on the Agriculture Department in detail. The panel will explore other findings in detail later.

Sen. Larry Tidemann, chairman of the committee, said the under- and over-reporting of various expenditures in the Agriculture Department were not major, but needed to be addressed.

Chris Petersen, finance director for the Department of Agriculture, said it’s not always easy to manage these dollars, because updates from the federal government aren’t always current. Some of the grant funds can be used over the course of a few years and they typically involve a state match.

“We don’t necessarily know which pot of funds we’re going to use for a project,” Petersen said.

The department has set up a plan to correct the problems with improved accounting practices.

Audit Manager Bob Christianson said before the meeting that auditors found more problems in the 2013 audit than in previous years. He said the 2013 audit focused on more, smaller federal programs.

“It’s important for the federal government to know that federal grants are acting as planned,” Christianson said.

Rep. Melissa Magstadt said she was glad the auditors discovered problems that could be addressed before the federal government got involved.