HELENA – Montana’s Public Service Commission is looking to hire an executive director after an audit found commissioners were overspending on travel and the commission needed to improve its financial reporting and its work culture, the commission said in its response to the audit.
The executive director will be responsible for overseeing all internal administrative matters, including ensuring reliable financial reporting and compliance with laws and policies. A posting for the job says it will pay between $85,000 and $105,000, plus benefits.
A recent audit found some commissioners were traveling without documenting the state-related business purpose for the trip, at least one upgraded from coach to comfort class on a flight to Washington, D.C., and travel costs were incurred without having another commissioner sign off on the trip, as is required under PSC policy.
Auditors said the PSC also needs to improve its compliance with state policies, ensure it is properly charging and collecting fees from regulated utilities and ensure the accuracy of its accounting records.
Auditors said no one within the PSC was available to sign off on a statement saying the commission had provided auditors with a “fair presentation of the financial schedules and notes, and for the design, implementation and maintenance of internal controls.”
James Brown, the new chairman of the commission, joined the PSC in January and thus did not work in the office during the financial audit, which covered two fiscal years ending June 30, 2020. Commissioner Brad Johnson was the chairman during the term of the audit.
“Because we had concerns about the integrity and competence of other management personnel, there was no one else at the department who could give reliable representation,” according to the audit, which will be presented to the Legislative Audit Committee next week.
Commissioners contacted by Lee Newspapers of Montana said they were told not to comment on the audit until after it is presented to lawmakers.
The PSC also plans to establish agency-wide standards of conduct to improve operations and culture, Brown said in his written response to the audit.
The elected five-person Public Service Commission regulates monopoly utilities, such as electricity and natural gas.
A previous investigation found former Commissioner Roger Koopman was the target of email leaks to a right-wing webcast and false police reports made by other commissioners or staff.
The emails released to Northwest Liberty News in January 2020 included Koopman’s complaints about travel spending and his perception that other PSC members did little work, along with some personal emails.
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