Last summer, the Secretary of State Oregon Audits Division released its findings and recommendations from their performance audit of the Oregon Forest Resources Institute (OFRI), as requested by Gov. Kate Brown in August 2020. We last addressed the audit on the OFRI Blog shortly after the full audit report was released in July 2021, in a post that described how OFRI intended to implement the audit’s operational recommendations.
Now we’d like to update the status of implementing those recommendations. The audit identified four recommendations (recommendations 2-5) to improve our performance and operations, and in our response to the audit we agreed to all of them. As OFRI’s acting executive director, I’ve been tasked with leading the charge in addressing these recommendations, and below I describe how we’re implementing each recommendation.
Please note that the audit also identified one recommendation for the Oregon Legislature (recommendation 1) that I won’t address, because it wasn’t directed to the Institute.
Here are the Secretary of State’s recommendations for OFRI, and how we’re working to implement each one.
Audit recommendation 2: Develop policy to provide guidance in avoiding prohibited activities
• OFRI asked the Oregon Department of Justice and the Oregon Ethics Commission for assistance in identifying and developing specific internal policies and processes to provide guidance to OFRI staff and board on ways to avoid engaging in activities prohibited by statute, and under what circumstances the agency will seek legal or ethical advice going forward.
• We provided ethics training, led by the Oregon Ethics Commission, to our board and staff in April 2022.
• We’re currently writing a policy to provide guidance to staff and board on ways to avoid engaging in statutorily prohibited activities. The policy should be developed and adopted by January 2023.
Audit recommendation 3: Improve internal controls
• The Institute selected a primary mission statement that’s consistent with its statutory mandate; the statement was approved by the OFRI Board in April 2021:
“The Oregon Forest Resources Institute supports and enhances Oregon’s forest products industry by advancing public understanding of forests, forest management and forest products.”
• We’ve posted this mission statement in appropriate places, including all our websites, all new OFRI publications and all educational media.
• We developed a draft Quality Information Policy, which will be formally adopted by the OFRI board in July 2022 after public review. This policy identifies agency standards and processes for developing, reviewing and disseminating quality information.
• We’re developing desk guides for each position and program, outlining the roles and responsibilities of each staff member, including the quality information processes that apply to them. The desk guides are targeted for completion by July 2022.
• We’re also embarking on a strategic planning effort after we hire a permanent executive director, a position that we’re currently seeking to fill. An updated OFRI strategic plan is targeted for completion by June 30, 2023.
Audit recommendation 4: Improve transparency and broaden stakeholder involvement
• We have posted the new OFRI mission statement on our website OregonForests.org, under the “About OFRI” tab.
• We also posted OFRI’s 2017 Strategic Plan on our website under the “About OFRI” tab. The 2022 Strategic Plan will be posted there once it is completed.
• We’ve developed the OFRI Stakeholder Checklist, which identifies how a broad range of stakeholders are identified, recruited and engaged in OFRI projects. This checklist works in concert with OFRI’s Quality Information Policy to engage a broad range of stakeholders in Project Steering Committees (PSCs). PSCs work with OFRI staff to develop educational materials and provide subject-matter expertise and target-audience perspective.
• Concurrently, we’ve developed the OFRI Public Review Process, which will be formally adopted by the OFRI Board in July 2022 after public review. The process is designed to better engage members of the public in developing OFRI educational materials, strategic plans and other initiatives.
• We’re communicating OFRI’s statutory mandate in all public messaging efforts, by posting our mission statement in appropriate places such as all new OFRI publications and all educational media.
Audit recommendation 5: Review statute to determine statewide policies that apply to OFRI
• We are conducting a comprehensive review of the OFRI statute and original intent of OFRI, to understand which statewide policies apply to OFRI.
• OFRI has requested that the Oregon Department of Administrative Services provide a list of statewide policies that apply to the Institute.
• We reached out to the Oregon Department of Justice for advice and guidance.
• We’re currently writing a policy to summarize how statewide policies apply to OFRI. We expect the policy to be completed and adopted in January 2023.
I believe OFRI is making a good-faith effort to implement the recommendations of the 2021 Secretary of State’s performance audit of OFRI. We’ve come a long way in completing our response. I’m always open to questions and comments as we implement the recommendations and move beyond the audit. Please contact me at [email protected].
For the forest,
Acting Executive Director