SEATTLE — An audit by the state legislature says the Puget Sound Partnership has failed its legal mandate for accountability. It’s the second state audit in two years to find fault with the relatively new state agency.
Last year, the state Auditor’s Office said the Partnership had misspent state funds and circumvented various state laws. Now, the legislature’s audit committee says the Puget Sound Partnership hasn’t put the systems in place to make sure that it’s doing its job; that Puget Sound is actually getting cleaner.
By law, those transparency and accountability measures were supposed to be in place in 2008, a year after the agency was created. Eric Thomas presented the audit’s preliminary findings to legislators on Thursday.
Thomas: “Currently, based on the Partnership’s public reporting, it’s not possible to tell which actions are implemented, the cost of those actions or what the results of those actions have been.”
When the Partnership released its action plan for Puget Sound in 2008, it failed to specify just what a healthy sound would look like or what the top priorities were for getting there. The auditors say as a result, there’s no way of knowing whether the agency is on track toward its legal mandate: a restored Puget Sound by the end of this decade.
The Puget Sound Partnership was created four years ago to jump–start the state’s stalled effort to restore the health of Puget Sound. Four years later, some legislators are unhappy with their creation. Gary Alexander is a Republican senator from Olympia.
Alexander: “I would have thought, as a new Puget Sound Partnership, that would have been one of the first — first! — things you’d do is to establish benchmarks and performance measures. I don’t know what we’ve done over the last four years.”
Marc Daily: “I hear what you’re saying about why wasn’t that done sooner, and I can’t speak to that.”
Marc Daily is the Partnership’s deputy director.
Daily: “What I can speak to is the fact that it has been made very much a priority, and we’ve moved very quickly on that.”
The Partnership says it will finish a new version of its action agenda, with all the required benchmarks and accountability mechanisms, in February. The audit says the agency’s latest efforts appear more likely to be in line with the law.
Marc Daily was in a bit of a tough position before the legislators. He took questions on problems that arose before he even worked at the agency.
The agency’s director and deputy director have been on the job less than a year. The Partnership’s first director, David Dicks, resigned last fall, after a state audit and a KUOW investigation brought the agency’s missteps to public attention.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is almost a year into its audit of the Puget Sound Partnership. EPA could not say when that audit will be complete.
(This was first reported for KUOW.org.)
Share your experiences as part of EarthFix's Public Insight Network.
Join our Public Insight Network!