- Associated Press - Thursday, June 28, 2018

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) - The North Dakota Department of Trust Lands has made progress addressing deficiencies identified in 2016 performance audits, according to a new report, but more work needs to be done.

The State Auditor’s Office updated the interim Legislative Audit and Fiscal Review Committee on Wednesday about the department’s progress following three critical audits, the Bismarck Tribune reported.

“The Department of Trust Lands did make significant improvements,” said Donald LaFleur, audit manager. “Since Commissioner (Jodi) Smith has come on board, she’s kind of hit the accelerator on the process.”

Smith was hired late last year to succeed Commissioner Lance Gaebe. Smith told lawmakers the department is working to improve management of its operations and plans to keep working on auditors’ recommendations.

The department manages the permanent educational trust funds and assets under the control of the Board of University and School Lands. It also operates the Unclaimed Property Division and the Energy Infrastructure and Impact Office.

A performance audit found the department assigned trusts to the wrong tracts of land, resulting in royalty payments and investment income going to the wrong trust.

Department staff have spent hundreds of hours reviewing the assignment of tracts to the correct trust and have completed 14 out of the state’s 53 counties, focusing first on oil- and coal-producing areas, Smith said.

But auditors found the potential still exists for tracts to be wrongly assigned and royalty payments to be incorrectly allocated because the agency doesn’t have an effective information technology system.

“The department has continued using the same outdated system that was a contributing factor in several of the original audit findings,” the new report stated.

The agency’s 2017-19 budget includes $3.6 million to replace older technology systems. The department is still working to award contracts for new software systems.

LaFleur said auditors don’t plan to issue another update unless lawmakers request one.


Information from: Bismarck Tribune, http://www.bismarcktribune.com

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