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Press release content from Globe Newswire. The AP news staff was not involved in its creation.

Comprehensive Audit of Audubon Nature Institute Purchasing Cards Finds Zero Waste, Fraud, and Abuse

December 18, 2019 GMT

New Orleans, La., Dec. 18, 2019 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- Nearly five years ago, Audubon Nature Institute welcomed an audit by the Office of Inspector General on its use of purchasing cards. The review included 90,000 transactions spanning three years. Audubon fully cooperated with all requests for information and documents, understanding the importance of complete transparency and accountability to the public. The OIG was given access to Audubon’s bank accounts, budgets, and expense codes, and reviewed three years’ worth of Audubon’s transactions.

After the extensive review, the OIG did not find a single instance of fraud, waste, abuse, or impropriety in Audubon’s operations. The OIG, whose mission includes increasing accountability and deterring fraud within public entities, highlighted in the report that Audubon has adequate controls in place to prevent fraud or misuse and complied with all internal purchasing policies. Audubon uses a robust accounting system that tracks every single dollar and is audited yearly. The Institute presents a full budget to the Audubon Commission in an annual public meeting.

“We are pleased that the results of the OIG’s audit reflect Audubon’s commitment to transparency, efficiency, and accountability in its expenditures,” says President of the Audubon Commission J. Kelly Duncan.

The OIG also made recommendations pointing to the operational agreement between the Audubon Commission and Audubon Nature Institute.

“While respecting the OIG’s opinion, we strongly disagree that the contract governing the partnership may not comply with the Louisiana Constitution,” says Audubon Executive Vice President of Public Affairs and General Counsel Rebecca Dietz. “The partnership, which dates back more than thirty years, is compliant with local and state law and has resulted in world-class facilities that serve our community.”

The model management structure of Audubon facilities is consistent with the way many major cultural and environmental organizations around the country operate—70% of zoos and aquariums operate under a public-private agreement.

“We are disappointed the OIG did not consider the myriad of other zoos and aquariums that operate pursuant to this management structure, which provides benefit to the public facilities in the form of fundraising and expertise in animal welfare and natural habitat preservation,” adds Dietz.

Although Audubon does not agree with the OIG’s position regarding the CEA, Audubon always strives to employ best practices in public and nonprofit management. Audubon has already started the process of evaluating alternatives presented by the OIG and is taking their operational suggestions into consideration.

“We are always open to feedback for improvement in how we serve the public,” says Duncan, “we thank the OIG for their extensive review.”

Lauren Messina Conrad Audubon Nature Institute 504.378.2693 lmessinaconrad@auduboninstitute.org