BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) - Gulf oil spill recovery money intended for testing to ensure fish caught off Louisiana were safe for consumers instead paid for unnecessary iPads, cameras, boats and now-missing fishing equipment, state auditors said, calling the safety program so mismanaged it couldn't even declare if the catch was fit to eat.
Energy giant BP PLC gave Louisiana millions of dollars for the program aimed at restoring confidence in the state's multibillion-dollar seafood industry after a massive oil spill fouled the Gulf of Mexico in 2010. But auditors said they believe hundreds of thousands of dollars were misspent.
The Louisiana Legislative Auditor's Office found "insufficient sampling of fish for contamination from the oil spill, excessive costs and missing property" in part of the $10.5 million BP-financed seafood safety program overseen by the state Department of Wildlife and Fisheries in the years after the spill.
A preliminary draft of the auditor's report, which hasn't been released publicly, was obtained by The Associated Press.
Beyond problems with the seafood safety program, the auditors say they found widespread financial issues across the Department of Wildlife and Fisheries: questionable purchases, free-wheeling spending with little oversight and missing fishing equipment, drones, guns and other items that belong to the state. And it said the department's management and employees may have violated the agency contract with BP "and state law" in the fish testing program.