The Ohio Department of Agriculture could earn nearly $500,000 in additional revenue each year by consolidating office and laboratory space and renting out the surplus, based on recommendations of a performance audit released Tuesday by Auditor of State Dave Yost.
The agency’s labs, which provide testing for animal diseases, consumer protection and horse racing, could better manage financial operations by determining the full costs of all testing services and adjusting rates accordingly, the audit notes. It also advises the agency to develop a labor tracking system to better capture how much time laboratory staff spend on testing, to improve the efficiency of the laboratories.
“The laboratories of the Ohio Department of Agriculture play a vital role in protecting Ohio’s agriculture, environment and consumers,” Yost said. “Better use of its resources will ensure that these crucial protections continue and provide even greater value to Ohioans.”
The audit was performed in accordance with Ohio Revised Code 117.46, which provides that the Auditor of State conduct performance audits of at least four state agencies each budget biennium. The audit was conducted from February to June of this year.
Auditors examined operations at the department’s campus in Reynoldsburg, where 12 buildings house offices, laboratories and support operations. Changes in department needs have left it with underused office and lab space. By consolidating office space and renting out the surplus, the agency could generate an estimated $103,314 annually, according to the audit. Doing the same with underused lab space could generate $382,413, auditors estimate. Converting one underused meeting room to office space and renting it out could generate an additional $6,526 in revenue, the audit found.
The agency should track the use of grounds-keeping and facility maintenance equipment, auditors advised, so that it has the data needed to right-size its equipment inventory. They also recommended that the department ensure all chemicals are properly stored, and disposed of when no longer needed.
Auditors highlighted the department’s participation in a laboratory integration project with the Ohio Department of Health and the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency. The aim is to align the fiscal operations of all state labs to share resources and compare lab operations. The project includes sharing equipment and facilities, combining capital equipment budgets, and purchasing jointly to obtain lower prices. The Auditor of State encourages efforts that lower costs and improve the efficiency of government.