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ND Game & Fish tracks down most of guns cited in audit

BISMARCK – The North Dakota Game and Fish Department has collected nearly all of the guns that a recent audit found hadn’t been properly inventoried, but 10 guns are still unaccounted for, a spokesman said Wednesday.

The State Auditor’s Office wrote in a performance audit report that the Game and Fish Department was unaware of the location of more than 100 guns used in its volunteer hunter education program.

The department is required to take an annual inventory of the guns, but auditors found no documentation of that ever happening, according to the April 9 audit report.

As of noon Wednesday, the Game and Fish Department had collected all but 10 of the 748 guns on its master list, spokesman Craig Bihrle said, adding that the department is cross-checking multiple databases to ensure that the 748 number is accurate.

Game wardens worked with certified hunter education instructors to locate the guns, Bihrle said. The 10 guns that haven’t been collected may or may not be among the more than 100 cited in the audit report, he said.

“We’re trying to verify that through the checking we’re doing,” he said.

In addition to the guns not being inventoried, auditors identified dozens of deficiencies in the department’s business practices, finding that Game and Fish “was in noncompliance with laws, rules and policies related to human resources and use of resources.”

The shortcomings included employees being improperly reimbursed for meals and lodging, contracts being awarded without going through the proper bidding process, inadequate background checks for new hires who had access to Social Security numbers or other sensitive information and ineffective management of the PLOTS program that pays private landowners to allow public access for hunting.

Game and Fish Director Terry Steinwand has said he wants to be in compliance with at least 90 percent of the audit’s 44 recommendations by the end of July. Bihrle said department staff went through training last week with state budget, human resource and risk management officials, and all of the audit’s recommendations are in various stages of implementation.

“Terry and all of us at Game and Fish are concerned about the audit, and we’re taking all the steps necessary to address the recommendations” as quickly as possible, he said.

Gov. Jack Dalrymple has asked Steinwand for regular progress updates, governor’s spokesman Jeff Zent said.