head title Fishery Police Suspected of Misusing Fines Collected

BOSTON – The fishery police underwent an audit recently to see how they were using the federal fines they collected. It has been discovered that the fines collected from fisherman were spent on things such as cars for managers, and a week long training seminars in Norway.

The audit were released to the public on Thursday, and was commissioned by the U.S. Department of Commerce’s inspector general, when it discovered incongruities in the management of fines by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s law enforcement office.

Inspector General Todd Zinser started the audio after the slew of complaints fisherman were filing every year about the arbitrary enforcement of the fishery laws, they claimed that the fines were being collected solely for the personal use of the NOAA.

Richard Burgess, a fisherman from Gloucester who is fighting $85,000 in fines, has said that the NOAA should cough up the money, and return it to its rightful owners.
“We’ve all known that they’re criminals,” Burgess stated in front of the law enforcement office. “Every one of them has got to go.”

Some surprising things were found out about the fund where the fines and penalties collected were deposited. The funds went to the Asset Forfeiture fund, and is managed by the accounting firm KPMG. Zinser has stated that the fund is so poorly managed, that it isn’t even listed in the NOAA’s annual budget documents. It is not known if this oversight was an accident or perfectly planned.

In a memo Zinser wrote to the NOAA chief Jane Lubchenco he stated “NOAA has administered the [fund] in a manner that is neither transparent nor conducive to accountability, thus rendering it susceptible to both error and abuse,”

The audit also revealed the fact that between January 2005 and June 2009, $96 Million was deposited into the fund, expenditure for the same time is supposed to be $49 Million. This is suggesting that the balance of the fund should contain a lot more than the NOAA’s estimate of $8.4 Million.

Scott Smullen, NOAA spokesman, has said that the fund had an $8.8 Million balance as of June 14th. He stated “There may have been a misinterpretation by KPMG when it estimated how much money came into the fund in recent years.” Smullen divulged that the NOAA gave KPMG in the neighborhood of 5 million electronic records, at its request, including receipts for the entire agency, of which only a small amount actually involved the fund.

The above fact is what may have led to the confusion of the fund balance. Smullen added that the agency is hoping to clear up any misunderstandings and discrepancies by making sure that both KPMG and the Commerce Department receive the correct information.

The NOAA has released a statement saying that it has already taken steps to make sure something like that does not happen again in the future, including shifting the management of the fund to NOAA’s conptroller and requiring the conptroller to give authorization of any spending which is over $1,000.