OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — A state audit says the Iowa Department of Natural Resources has been mismanaging a multimillion-dollar fund set up to help oversee Iowa livestock farms and their manure.
The audit report issued Tuesday said the agency improperly transferred money from a fund meant to finance oversight of livestock farms.
“We did not identify any unallowable expenses,” Auditor Mary Mosiman said. “It’s just the way they were transferring the money violated Iowa law.”
The $1.6 million in fees collected annually from livestock farms is required to be used only for the program to ensure compliance with manure management and barn construction laws.
Under the law, the money cannot be used or appropriated for other purposes, and the DNR is barred from transferring money “from the compliance fund’s assessment account to another fund or account, including but not limited to the fund’s general account.”
So the audit doesn’t confirm the allegation that money was being diverted for other uses. The program’s former manager, Gene Tinker, said he believes the money was being misused, and he is appealing losing his job last year.
“I’ve always had questions on how they managed this fund because they were very secretive,” said Tinker, whose appeal has been on hold while the audit was being done.
The spokesman for the Department of Natural Resources didn’t respond to phone messages from The Associated Press Tuesday, but the agency responded to the auditor.
The DNR said the money from the fund was used to enforce the rules and regulations for large livestock farms.
State Sen. David Johnson, the Legislature’s sole independent lawmaker and a dairy farmer, requested the audit. Johnson said he hopes the agency will change its practices, so taxpayers can easily see how the money is being spent.
“It’d be better if there was more transparency in how that money is being spent,” Johnson said.
The auditor’s office also recommended that the DNR review the amount of the fee it charges livestock farms annually to ensure that it is collecting enough to enforce state regulations.
Iowa farmers had 23.6 million hogs and pigs on September 1, which was a new record and 4 percent higher than last year.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture says the state’s chicken population includes 54 million hens, and more than 1 million cows are in Iowa feedlots.