Water developmentWritten by Saige Albert
Cheyenne – During their Jan. 5-6 meeting, the Wyoming Legislature’s Management Audit Committee considered the Legislative Service Office’s (LSO) evaluation draft report titled, “Wyoming Water Development Commission (WWDC).” The report was released on Jan. 6.
LSO staff was directed to review WWDC project prioritization and administration of the water development accounts, as well as to consider issues related to WWDC administrative practices and the relationship between WWDC and the Wyoming Water Development Office (WWDO), each of which was covered in the report.
“In recent years, WWDC has made the Legislature aware of increased demands for funding for water development projects. These issues originally appeared to be limited to rehabilitation projects, but as of November 2015, funding requests for new development projects also outpace available funding,” said LSO in a press release. “This evaluation includes review of the methods for managing the three water development accounts as well as how WWDC can work to prioritize projects to stay within the funding limits. The evaluation also provides recommendations to WWDC to better manage several of its business practices and clarify its relationship with WWDO.”
Floyd Canfield, chairman of WWDC, commented, “The Commission found the report to be impressive and very helpful in identifying issues for improvement within the Commission, WWDO and the Wyoming Water Development Program.”
LSO noted in the report that rehabilitation project requests exceeded the typical funding in Account II of WWDC, which serves to fund those projects.
“This precipitated WWDO and the Governor to issue a 2015 supplemental budget request for additional rehabiliataion projects,” the report reads, also noting that the request was submitted without advice or approval of WWDC. “With only half of the request funding and no projects cut as a result of the reduced appropriation, questions about the lack of project prioritization, the budgeting process and account distribution statuses have arisen.”
Further, LSO noted that WWDC practices for tracking and projecting account revenues do not account for possible cash constraints. However, they also noted that the process is similar to how the state budgets each biennium.
LSO mentioned concern with the requirement for prioritization of projects, but a lack of method for scoring, measuring, ranking and ordering applications.
Practices and administration
In the last chapter of the report, LSO noted that six administrative practices were of concern.
In particular, LSO identified their concerns as the absence of program rules; lack of compliance for disclosure on conflict of interest; voting recusal that is not guided by policy or protocol; consultant selection notification and disclosure policies; and misperceptions or misunderstandings about primary oversight over the Water Development Program and its accounts.
“Overall, the implementation of the Program resides with the Commission, but in reality, the Commission relies heavily on the Office director and staff to fully exercise its authority in administering the Program,” LSO said.
Thirteen recommendations were issued, and they were largely agreed on by WWDC and WWDO, with some exceptions.
While WWDC noted that it agreed with recommendations provided and “intends to take positive steps to address issues identified,” Canfield also mentioned, “As with any generalized report of this nature, the WWDC Report does not necessarily represent a complete picture of how the Commission and the Office operate.”
WWDC further noted that they work well with WWDO and the characterizations in the report were incomplete.
Further, WWDC disagreed with the recommendations that a formal cash balance policy be established, saying, “The Commission disagrees with this policy recommendation but will review and formalize existing fiscal practices regarding available funding projections.”
WWDO also largely agreed with recommendations in the report, with the exception of a handful.
Recommendation 4.6 by LSO was that, “the Legislature could consider more explicit and/or different specifications in statute to reflect the desired governance and oversight relationship between the Commission and Office for the Program and other water development responsibilities.”
WWDO noted that statute clearly establishes those responsibilities, and they prefer to address management concerns of the program through creating internal policies to clarify specific duties, as outlined in the next recommendation.
Disagreements related to funding priorities were also highlighted, and WWDO noted that funding priorities in the three water development accounts have functioned well.
In addition, the report’s recommendation to fund dam and reservoir rehabilitation from Account Three was a subject of disagreement from WWDO, who noted that the action would diminish funding for new storage projects.
“The Commission agrees with all recommendations and policy considerations directed toward the Commission, with the exception of establishing a cash balance and tracking policy for the Accounts,” responded WWDC.
“The Commission would like to thank the Management Audit Committee for the opportunity to respond and looks forward to implementing changes as put forth by the Committee,” Canfield concluded in the WWDC letter.
WWDO added, “The findings and recommendations are constructive and will be a valuable resources as the Commission and Office work to improve the Wyoming Water Development Program.”