Kansas’ wildfire suppression system is not adequately designed and resourced to effectively suppress wildfires based on best practices and a sample of other states. We compared Kansas’ wildfire suppression system to national best practices and systems in other Great Plains states. Kansas’ wildfire suppression structure generally aligned with best practices except that it relies on three entities instead of one. Kansas’ wildfire suppression system also has fewer state resources than other Great Plains states. Kansas’ lack of resources limits the availability of wildfire suppression training and the state’s ability to mitigate wildfire damage. Further, state and local officials reported education and coordination problems among entities involved in wildfire suppression. Finally, the state agencies involved in Kansas’ wildfire suppression system do not maintain complete wildfire management data. However, some large wildfires are unavoidable even if Kansas improves its wildfire suppression system.
Kansas Corporation Commission: Evaluating Savings Achieved through the Facility Conservation Improvement Program
Published: APRIL, 2016
In 2000, the Kansas Legislature enacted legislation establishing the Facility Conservation Improvement Program (FCIP). Public entities can use the program to streamline the process for energy-efficient and deferred-maintenance projects such as installing new lighting or replacing boilers or chillers. The program is designed for project costs to be paid for with energy savings within a set period of time. We reviewed three FCIP projects and were unable to determine whether the public entity achieved the energy savings guaranteed under the terms of the contract with an energy service company because follow-up verification reports either were not required, were missing, or were based on faulty analysis. We made a number of recommendations to address issues with the program, and identified issues for further study.
Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism: Evaluating a Jefferson County Land Purchase
In 2014 , the Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism (KDWPT) purchased several tracts of land in Jefferson County for recreation and conservation purposes. KDWPT needed to comply with several state and federal requirments in order to purchase the Jefferson County land. We found that KDWPT demonstrated compliance with most, but not all of those state and federal requirements. Additionally, KDWPT paid about $20,000 for a 14-acre tract of land as part of the acquisition, but never actually acquired legal ownership of the property. Finally, KDWPT’s land purchase procedures lacked guidance on how to comply with state legal requirements.
Water-Related Agencies: Determining Whether the State Could Achieve Efficiencies and Reduce Costs by Combining the Operations of Its Water-Related Agencies
Although Kansas has several agencies involved in water management, the organizational structure isn’t out of line compared to other western states. In addition, we found very few problems with the current structure, and State and local officials told us the system doesn’t need significant changes. State officials went on to cite the Natural Resources Sub-Cabinet as a major reason for better coordination among water-related agencies. We estimated that creating a single State water agency may yield between $300,000 and $7 million in administrative savings, with the actual savings likely to be on the lower end of that estimate. We also identified a few opportunities for State agencies to improve their coordination and make their programs more efficient without consolidating. Those opportunities include having field staff from different agencies collaborate, improve the monitoring of Watershed Restoration and Protection Strategies (WRAPS) projects and taking steps to share water data more efficiently among themselves and with the public.
Department of Health and Environment: Reviewing Issues Related to the Permitting Process in the Bureau of Air and Radiation
Entities that emit specified levels of pollutants into the air must obtain an air-quality permit from the Kansas Department of Health and Environment. The only significant change the Department has made to the air-quality construction permit process in the last year has been the addition of a carbon dioxide emission estimate for every application. This addition has not lengthened the time it takes to approve a construction permit. In recent years, the Department has implemented a number of streamlining activities to reduce permit processing times. These changes have resulted in a decrease in construction permit approval time by 51% (from an average of 63 days in fiscal year 2003 to an average of 31 days in fiscal year 2008). The basic construction permitting process Kansas uses is similar to the process five other states use, although there are a few differences. For example, most of the other states don’t calculate a carbon dioxide estimate for every construction permit application.Calendar year 2008 had more upper-management turnover than any of the past 10 years. As of July 2008, five upper-management positions had turned over in 2008; the next highest number of positions that turned over in any year was four, back in 1999 and 2000. This increase is agency-wide, and much of the increase can be attributed to retirements.
Department of Wildlife and Parks: Reviewing Issues Related to the Walk-In Hunting Access Program
In general, the Department of Wildlife and Parks has reasonable policies and procedures to identify and prevent conflicts of interest. However, those policies and procedures could be strengthened by having a more centralized reporting process, having upper management periodically review what’s been reported, and more explicitly specifying consequences for non-compliance with policies. We didn’t identify any Walk-In Hunting Access Program staff with outside employment that represented a conflict of interest. However, we found one instance in 2005 where the Department approved an employee’s request to lease some land to hunters for a fee. That situation had the appearance of a conflict of interest, although the employee reported that he never actually leased the land. Finally, we noted the Department could improve the way it maintains information about land leased through the Program by keeping its databases current, and by assigning a unique and static number to each lease.
Kansas Corporation Commission: Reviewing Issues Related to Consumer Complaints
The KCC’s Office of Public Affairs and Consumer Protection has 8.5 FTE staff who spend about two-thirds of their time handling customer inquiries and facilitating the resolution of customers’ informal complaints. Our review of 30 informal complaints showed that consumers received at least some relief 73% of the time--even when the utility wasn’t in the wrong--and the utilities appeared to take reasonable action in response to each complaint. Utility customers also can file formal complaints with the KCC, which are handled by KCC legal staff. We reviewed eight formal complaints; complainants received at least some relief in half those cases. Kansas is similar to surrounding states’ utility regulators in terms of how informal complaints are handled. We didn’t identify any strong reasons for moving the KCC’s informal complaint function to either the Citizens’ Utility Ratepayer Board (CURB) or the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division.
Department of Wildlife and Parks: Reviewing Its Lease of the Campus House for Its Northeast Regional Office (limited-scope audit)
The Department of Wildlife and Parks generally followed State law and leasing guidelines when it leased the Campus House on the former Menninger campus for its northeast regional office. But the facility is much larger than it originally advertised for, than recommended in the Governor’s space standards, or than is common in other regional or park offices. Department officials chose the location because of the possibility of getting adjacent land donated as a State Park. Before moving in, the Department spent more than $113,000 to remodel the facility. The lease agreement doesn’t include provisions allowing the Department to recoup any of those remodeling costs, or establishing a purchase price. Recent appraisals of the Campus House property in the $700,000-plus range are nearly triple the appraised value in 2004 when the lease was signed. The final purchase price for the building and property will determine whether this transaction is financially beneficial to the State.
Plumb Thicket Landfill Application: Determining Whether KDHE’s Review Complied with Applicable Laws and Regulations (limited-scope audit)
The Plumb Thicket landfill, proposed for a 950-acre site in northern Harper County, has been controversial from the beginning. Citizens concerned about potential environmental impacts have sued over the County’s decision to grant zoning for the project, and KDHE has stopped all review of the landfill application pending the court’s ruling. Local citizens have questioned whether KDHE followed all applicable laws and regulations in reviewing the application. We found that the application materials Waste Connections submitted to KDHE met the requirements in effect at the time the application was submitted. In addition, KDHE’s review appeared to be reasonably thorough. We did note several weaknesses in KDHE’s review: it didn’t follow a State law that calls for it to seek advice and counsel from local health authorities, and it didn’t question several representations made by the company applying for the landfill permit that we thought should have been questioned. The Department needs to develop uniform guidance for its staff to follow in reviewing landfill applications, but we saw nothing in the documents we reviewed that would cause us to question KDHE’s independence.
Disposal of Seized Animals, Animal Remains, and Other Property: Assessing How Well the Department of Wildlife and Parks Handles Such Seizures (100-hour audit)
The Department hadn't established adequate procedures for documenting, tracking, or disposing of items that had been seized. Most law enforcement officers who responded to our survey told us they'd received sufficient training but that they needed more guidance, especially with the disposal of items no longer needed as evidence. Before this audit was approved, the Department had begun drafting new procedures, but the draft procedures we saw didn't address all of the weaknesses we identified. People we talked to both inside and outside the Department said they weren't aware of problems with seized items being used inappropriately.
Department of Agriculture: Reviewing the Water Structures Program
Timeliness was a problem with nearly 60% of water structure permits and 60% of safety inspections of hazardous dams. In addition, all complaints about water structures we reviewed either weren't responded to at all, or took far too long to process. These problems were brought about by a number of factors, including high staff turnover, a lack of accurate and complete information needed to manage the Program, and poor management oversight of the Program. Examples of poor management included incomplete checklists for reviewing permit applications, no schedules for dam inspections, and poor follow-up procedures to ensure that problems were corrected. In addition, Kansas' water structures program was responsible for nearly 3 times as many dams as any of the surrounding states–in large part because Kansas' statutory definition of a dam is more broad. Issues were raised about whether water structures were being built in Kansas without permits, and whether such unpermitted bridges were contributing to localized flooding in Sedgwick county. We identified at least 34 water structures in 11 counties that were built without permits in the past 3 years. Recent flooding in Sedgwick County probably wouldn't have been avoided even if permits had been obtained. Another issue concerns whether Program regulations required a sufficient examination to assess the impact a new bridge might have on downstream property owners. This could be a significant issue because the Kansas Supreme Court has held at least 1 county liable for downstream damage caused by a bridge it replaced.
Reviewing the Activities of the Corporation Commission’s Conservation Division: A K-GOAL Audit
Because the Corporation Commission's Conservation Division and its staff don’t have or retain all the information they need, the Division can’t be sure that it and the well operators it regulates are doing all that’s required by State law and Commission regulations. For example, staff in the Division can’t be sure whether a lease has been inspected, whether a complaint was investigated in a timely manner, whether operators corrected problems within a specified time, whether operators in prorated oil and gas fields consistently follow Commission orders on production, or whether wells were plugged at the lowest cost to the State. When violations are found, a bottleneck in the legal section slows actions against operators, thereby weakening the Division’s enforcement efforts. Weak enforcement increases risk to the environment, and could increase State costs for plugging wells abandoned in the future. New financial assurance requirements have been put in place to limit these costs, but because of their newness and some ambiguities in the law, it’s unclear how effective those assurances will be. The Division is making progress on plugging the already abandoned wells that are most likely to contaminate fresh water or cause other problems. However, it will take until 2008 at the earliest to plug the most dangerous wells.
Reviewing the Department of Wildlife and Parks’ Management of Lands Leased for Farming and Grazing (100-hour audit)
For State-owned lands the Department of Wildlife and Parks leases, the agreements require the farmer or rancher to “pay” the Department through “in-kind” services—such as paying vendors for items purchased by the Department, paying contract laborers for work done on Department lands, or performing services for the Department at a set hourly rate. The revenues and payments from this activity aren’t included in the usual budgeting processes. Department officials cite a number of benefits from this practice, including providing them with greater flexibility in how to spend the moneys on improvements within their areas. Although the Department generally has established and followed some good practices regarding the management of these leases, we also found a number of problems with the way these leases or lease payments were handled. This included allowing the amount tenants “hold” for the Department to grow to unacceptably high amounts. We saw one case where the tenant was holding more than $25,000. The Department has since recovered that money in cash.
Reviewing the Department of Health and Environment’s Efforts To Protect Water from Pollution Caused by Confined Livestock Feeding Operations
The Department’s actions haven’t been sufficient to minimize the risk of water pollution. The standards it adopted for the design and location of sewage lagoons are less stringent than comparison states in two key areas. Although the Department has adopted many good regulatory practices, its staff didn’t follow all those practices or other Department requirements in 93% of the 41 cases we reviewed. It often issued permits to facilities that didn’t meet all the requirements, let facilities operate for years with expired permits, didn’t perform the required inspections, and rarely followed up to make sure violations were corrected. It appears the Department needs additional staff to carry out all the activities it should be doing to adequately protect the State’s water. Finally, the Department’s regulatory authority generally is adequate, but regulation of dust and odors is difficult without some objective way to measure odors or to isolate the amount of dust caused by a certain source.
Reviewing the Conservation Commission’s Effectiveness at Meeting the Goals Established Under the State Water Plan: A K-GOAL Audit
The Conservation Commission has done a good job of awarding program moneys for the types of projects and in the areas of the State that were targeted as priorities in the State Water Plan. However, the ways in which the Annual Implementation Plan is developed and projects are approved may not ensure that compliance with Water Plan goals will always be as high in the future for Commission-funded programs. This is primarily because the people who are setting the priorities are different from the people who are deciding where the moneys actually are spent. In addition, no one at the State level systematically reviews program spending after the fact to see how well it addresses needs identified by the State Water Plan. We also found that, although the Commission collects some information about whether moneys being spent are effective at meeting Water Plan goals, part of that information may not be reliable. Finally, the Commission’s programs could be transferred to other State agencies and the Commission abolished, but there didn’t appear to be a compelling reason to do so, and the savings that could be achieved are unclear.
Reviewing U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Records Supporting the State’s Share of Development Costs for El Dorado State Park
The Corps of Engineers has said the State owes $8.5 million for its share of the development of El Dorado State Park. The amount increased significantly over the years because of changes to original design plans and inflation. We found that the Corps’ worksheets and accounting records generally support its final cost figures. Some cost issues still need to be resolved, but the effect of these on the amount owed by the State is relatively minor. Although original supporting documents such as contracts and invoices may no longer be available, the Park Authority (later the Department of Wildlife and Parks) provided oversight throughout the project, and was actively involved in planning the Park, making changes to those plans, monitoring construction, and reviewing contracts. If the State makes annual payments to the Corps for the next 32 years, total payments with interest will amount to about $15 million.
Reviewing Issues Relating to the Financial Management, Efficiency, and Effectiveness of the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks
In general, we found the Department’s financial management practices were not adequate to provide needed accountability for restricted moneys, leading the Department to violate State law and misspend nearly $4 million of wildlife and park moneys during fiscal years 1989-1992. Combining parks and public wildlife area staff as a result of the merger created efficiencies that were negated when the Department recently separated those two functions because of the diversion problem. The Department has met some of its goals such as increasing outdoor recreational opportunities and ensuring the public’s safe and legal use of recreation resources; however, it has not improved its wildlife habitat resources or maintained facilities as it should. The Department’s combination of parks and public wildlife area staffs in one division is different from most other states. The Department also has a general layer of management not found in other states, and has devoted proportionally more of its employee resources to support activities and less to field activities than other states we reviewed.
Assessing the Department of Wildlife and Parks’ Compliance With Certain Federal Requirements Related to Fish and Wildlife Programs
In March 1994, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service suspended all federal payments to the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks for diverting as much as $4.4 million in hunting and fishing license fees to unallowed purposes during fiscal years 1989 through 1992, for not meeting $3.5 million in State spending requirements for fisheries, and for other financial control weaknesses. We found the Department ended up diverting $1.7 million of license fees and related federal reimbursements to unallowed purposes -- primarily parks. Significant financial management problems led to this situation, including overriding existing financial controls and ignoring internal staff warnings that the Department was diverting restricted moneys to unallowed purposes. Finally, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s conclusion that the Department fell short of meeting federal requirements for minimum State spending on fisheries was accurate.
Reviewing Potential Duplication of Water Regulation Activities--A K-GOAL Audit of the Kansas Water Office, the Kansas Water Authority, and the Division of Water Resources
Although State law gives the agencies shared responsibility for three water-related programs, we found no significant duplication of effort. In a few areas where the agencies’ activities overlap, they have entered into agreements to help minimize the possibility of duplication. Both agencies have been working on issues related to the Republican River. The Division of Water Resources is focusing on water use in Nebraska to determine whether Nebraska has violated it compact with Kansas. The Water Office is assessing how lowered streamflows on the Republican River may affect water levels in Milford Reservoir. Our contacts with 12 other states showed that Kansas had a more decentralized organizational structure for regulating water and Kansas was the only state where the water permitting process is placed within an agricultural agency.
Examining the Corporation Commission’s Management and Use of Its Conservation Fee Fund (100-hour audit)
In February 1994, the Kansas Corporation Commission informed the Legislature that oil and gas fee revenues coming into the Conservation Fee Fund might be inadequate to cover expenses. Commission officials were concerned that fluctuating revenues in any one month might jeopardize the Commission’s ability to meet payroll expenses. In an attempt to manage its cash flow problems, the Corporation Commission raised fees and cut costs, including cutting back on well-plugging activities and developing a plan to furlough Conservation Division employees. However, the Commission could have avoided these problems altogether if it had acted on a more timely basis to raise fees to meet rising costs. In conducting this audit, we also reviewed expenditures to-date in fiscal year 1994 and found them to be appropriate in light of the expected revenue shortfall. However, we did note that cutting back on well-plugging activities diminished the Commission’s ability to carry out its regulatory responsibilities.
Reviewing the Division of Water Resources Process For Approving Water Permits (100-hour audit)
The audit showed that over the past five years, the backlog of unprocessed applications for new water permits has tripled, and the average time taken to approve permits has doubled. The reasons for growth of the backlog included an unusually high number of permit applications received in 1989, and a sharp drop in the number of applications resolved in 1992. Until very recently, the Division had not placed a high priority on reducing the backlog of new water permit applications. In February 1993, the Division created a temporary task force of 11 existing employees to work on the backlog of applications for new water permits. In addition, the Governor has recommended transferring two positions to the Division of Water Resources to help reduce the backlog of applications in fiscal year 1994. Whether or not the Division’s staff is increased, the Division needs to improve the information available to actively manage its review and approval of water permits.
Reviewing Potential Overlap in State Agencies’ Responsibilities for Protecting Groundwater and Regulating Transportation
The Corporation Commission and the Department of Health and Environment do not duplicate each other's efforts on the same pollution problems, but inefficiencies and confusion result from having two agencies involved. Because each agency follows essentially the same steps to ensure that pollution is cleaned up, there is no benefit to the State from having both involved. Other oil- and gas-producing states have placed pollution clean up from oil and gas with one agency. Having several agencies involved with motor carrier regulation also has not resulted in significant overlap in agency responsibilities. However, motor carriers would be better served, and the State could potentially reduce some administrative inefficiencies, if there were a greater degree of coordination in the regulatory system. Although there are no easy solutions to the inherent conflict regulatory agencies face in balancing the interests of the public and the regulated industry, restrictions on staff involvement with a regulated industry could help improve staff independence. Other oil-producing states generally have not enacted such restriction on their staffs.
The Department of Health and Environment’s regulatory procedures comply with federal and State legal requirements, but several aspects of the program are not being managed adequately. The State does not have an established program to minimize production of hazardous waste, but the Department is using a federal grant to develop one. Kansas has adopted the federal requirements for monitoring the movement of hazardous waste, and the system appears to be working as intended. However, the Department has not had adequate procedures for tracking and resolving discrepancies in hazardous waste shipments.
State Agencies’ Handling of Water Contamination and Pollution Problems in Kansas
Water experts indicate that Kansas’ water quality is good overall, but instances of contamination exist throughout the State. Three State agencies have primary responsiblities for ensuring the quality of the State’s water. The system for maintaining water quality imposes many requirements on these agencies before contamination is identified, but allows substantial discretionary authority afterwards. An in-depth review of seven contaminated sites showed that State agencies generally did what they were required to do to minimize or prevent pollution at the sites, but that they generally did not use the discretionary authority they had for a number of reasons.
Construction expenditures for the Milford Fish Hatchery have been about $4.6 million to date, substantially less than the $6 million cost that was projected. Milford Hatchery has not produced as many fish as planning documents projected, or as many as it has been assigned to produce. It also has not been able to reduce fish production costs as projected. Naturally occurring pollutants in the primary source of water chosen by the Department -- an outlet lake below the dam -- have caused most of the problems the Hatchery has had with diseased and dying fish since it opened. Water quality in the outlet lake seems to be improving, but another big concern for the Hatchery’s long-term operations may be the limited amounts of water available. Both improved management techniques and improved recordkeeping are needed to overcome existing problems and minimize future ones.
Regulation of Oil and Gas Wells, Part II: Enforcement of Injection Well Procedures
The Corporation Commission’s monitoring program is weakened because no one reviews reports submitted by injection well operators. Because of unclear testing guidelines, some similar wells are tested at inconsistent pressures, and some unsound wells pass the pressure tests. The audit recommends ways to strengthen the monitoring and testing program. Finally, the Environmental Protection Agency is likely to reimpose injection well testing requirements if the State imposes a testing moratorium.
Regulation of Oil and Gas Wells, Part I: Enforcement of Well Plugging
Most complaints or violations related to abandoned, unplugged wells rather than to improperly plugged wells. Abandoned, unplugged wells present a significant potential for polluting groundwater, but current inspection procedures do not ensure that such wells are identified and plugged on a timely basis. The lack of basic, centralized information about the number and status of all wells also hampers the field staff’s ability to detect unplugged wells through inspections. The audit recommends improvements in each area.
This Post Audit report conducted a performance audit of Kansas program for weatherizing the homes of low income people. The audit examined operations at both the State and Local level, and it addressed two main questions: Do State and local agencies have the ability to effectively use the additional money available? And given the large number of homes yet to be weatherized, what type of weatherization work will porvide the highest benefit and result in weatherizing the greatest number of homes?
Performance of the Mined-Land Conservation and Reclamation Board
The purpose of this audit was to answer a number of specific questions asked by the House Energy and Natural Resources Committee concerning the performance of the Board. The committees concerns were prompted by a letter in early March 1983 from the federal Office of Surface Mining to the Governor, which was highly critical of the Board’s regulatory program. Several of the Problenms cited by the OSM were also discussed in a March 1982 performance audit of the Mined-Land Regulatory Program by the Legislative Division of Post Audit.
Regulation and Clean Up of the Furley Hazardous Waste Disposal Site
The purpose of this audit was to answer several specific questions about the success and status of clean-up efforts at the Furley hazardous waste disposal site, the appropriateness of the Department’s regulatory actions, and the feasibility of reopening the site.
This sunset audit concludes that Kansas needs State energy programs to promote energy conservation and develop plans for energy emergencies, and to disburse federal and State funds for cost-effective conservation programs. The audit shows, however, that the energy programs administered by the Energy Office haven’t been very effective.The Office’s energy information and emergency preparedness programs are inadequate; they do not establish a priority system for allocating available energy resources in the event of an emergency. Further, most of the conservation programs haven’t been evaluated to determine which ones are cost-beneficial.
Kansas Corporation Commission: Mined-Land Regulatory Program
This report concludes that State regulation over strip mining of coal should be continued. Without a regulatory program to ensure that mined land is reclaimed, harm can occur both to land and to people because of safety hazards, water pollution, erosion, and loss of income from unproductive land.
Examing The Purchase of Storm Windows For The Kansas Statehouse
The audit found that existing inventories of State-held land were inadequate. Although the Secretary of State’s Office and the Division of Accounts and Reports, the two agencies with responsibility for parts of the inventory, were in compliance with existing statutes, neither maintained adequate records for effective management. State agencies didn’t always comply with procedures for establishing the inventory, and they often submitted insufficient information.The audit found that although the State lacked any clear policy regarding the use of potentially surplus land, the individual agencies holding the land were making reasonably good use of it for the State.
This audit centered around concerns that Western Kansas would run out of water in 45 years because of increased use of water resources. The audit concentrated primarily on current water management policies as a means of strengthening the State’s ability to develop long-term solutions to the problem of water shortages.The audit found a three-fold problem in current management of water in Kansas. The first problem was that information already being collected on water use was not effectively combined and analyzed to aid in making decisions. The second problem was that existing laws, rules, and regulations were often so ambiguous or confusing as to make any decisions impossible even if proper information on water use were available. The third problem with water management was that under existing law, water could be used without first obtaining a water right. This lack of control hampers the State’s ability to regulate water use.