Oklahoma agency — Commission on Marginally Producing Oil and Gas Wells — faces criticism

Roughly $10,000 in expenditures questioned at the Oklahoma Commission on Marginally Producing Oil and Gas Wells that had four employees and a $600,000 budget.
BY MEGAN ROLLAND mrolland@opubco.com Published: November 19, 2012
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Townsend could not be reached for comment.

The audit also criticized “the extensive out-of-state travel” conducted by public affairs officer Rick Torix.

Several calls over two days to the state agency phone number went to a voice mail that was full and unable to accept messages. No one responded to an email sent to the agency requesting comment for this story.

Executive Director James Revard also could not be reached for comment.

Better oversight

The agency spent almost $50,000 in travel expenses in the 2011 fiscal year, the audit notes, and there are discrepancies in several claims for reimbursement for travel as well as charges to state credit cards.

A nine-member panel, the Commission on Marginal Wells, oversees the agency.

Paul Bruce, the chairman of that commission, said it has now discussed moving forward with better oversight and tighter controls of the agency.

“We are probably going to restrict some of the travel,” Bruce said. “We're so short staffed we're not going to send them on as many trips. We're doing some things to maybe tighten some controls and reduce some costs.”

“It's a very small agency and therefore it's somewhat difficult to make sure you've got the proper duplication and documents that document everything the way it should be,” he said.

“Having said that, I think it's still the commissioners' and the agency's desire and plan to do everything they can to maintain good records and good financial controls.”

Bruce said he thought the audit was conducted with some bias and does not represent a full picture of the agency.

“There was a long interview at the beginning of the audit with an employee that was very disgruntled, and she has since left,” Bruce said.

Jones said that kind of attitude is part of the problem at an agency that has had serious issues in three consecutive audits.

“This audit is the result of what our auditors discovered,” Jones said. “It's based on fact.”