Five Year Long Audit of Audubon Continues to Find Zero Fraud or Abuse
Over five years ago, Audubon Nature Institute welcomed a comprehensive audit by the Office of the Inspector General and fully cooperated with all requests for information and documents, understanding the importance of complete transparency and accountability to the public.
The third audit pertains to Audubon’s payroll practices dating back more than eight years ago. Significant portions of this third audit repeat conclusions reached in the first and second audits, raising the important issue of whether these audits could have been completed as one, saving significant resources for Audubon, the OIG, and most importantly, the public.
The OIG did not find a single instance of fraud, abuse, or impropriety in Audubon’s operations. In fact, the OIG highlighted in the report that Audubon has adequate controls in place that were designed properly and are implemented effectively.
“We have reviewed the OIG’s findings and observations with respect to payroll,” said Rebecca Dietz, Audubon Executive Vice President of Public Affairs and General Counsel. “While we are always open to feedback for improvement, Audubon strongly disagrees with the inflammatory opinions provided by the OIG regarding executive compensation and observes that several of the findings related to procedures in place over eight years ago have been resolved.”
With respect to employee compensation, Audubon has already started the process of evaluating alternatives and will be implementing a revised means of segregating funds generated by the Audubon Nature Institute for employee-related expenses. The OIG’s finding with respect to constitutionality of benefits is unfounded and ignores express contractual terms between Audubon Nature Institute and its executives. The OIG has acknowledged that Audubon has a written policy on setting compensation and has found no instance where this policy was not followed. Further, the OIG did not consider any subjective factors related to establishing compensation for a CEO with over thirty years-experience.
“The OIG acknowledges that the Audubon Nature Institute Board followed its policy and conducted a complete comparative analysis to peer organizations on which to base executive compensation. The unsupported opinion of the OIG does not and cannot replace the review and judgment of the 32-member nonprofit board tasked with setting executive compensation,” said J. Kelly Duncan, Audubon Commission President.
“It is questionable that the OIG is using public resources to make recommendations to a private non-profit board on alleged best practices,” added Lynes Sloss, Audubon Nature Institute Chairman. “The outgoing OIG’s opinion is not fact-based, appears to guess at issues of constitutionality and serves no purpose other than to sensationalize the issue of executive compensation at Audubon.”
While Audubon has fully cooperated with the OIG for the last five years and welcomes opportunities to improve, the audits unfortunately come at a time when Audubon has incredibly pressing matters to address, and very limited resources. Excluded from COVID-19 federal relief funding, Audubon is focused on engaging in essential operations including the care and feeding of nearly 15,000 animals and recovery planning to ensure the future of the organization.
Audubon Nature Institute operates a family of museums, parks and research facilities dedicated to celebrating the wonders of nature. Through innovative live animal exhibits, education programs, and scientific discovery, Audubon makes a meaningful contribution to preserving wildlife for the future. Audubon Nature Institute flagships include Audubon Park, Audubon Zoo, Audubon Aquarium of the Americas, Entergy Giant Screen Theater, Audubon Butterfly Garden and Insectarium, Audubon Louisiana Nature Center, Freeport-McMoRan Audubon Species Survival Center, Woldenberg Riverfront Park and Audubon Wilderness Park. Ron Forman is President and CEO of Audubon Nature Institute.