Thursday, August 05, 2021

Committed to overhauling culture of the Public Service Commission

by Derek Skees
| July 11, 2021 12:00 AM

The Legislative Audit Division report released in late May on the Department of Public Service Regulation was fraught with violations. It was a financial-compliance audit to determine if the agency’s financial operations were properly conducted for the FY ending June 30, 2020. They found many concerns and offered recommendations for correction. The Legislative Audit committee met June 7 and was able to question the new PSC leadership on the startling audit findings.

Anyone who followed energy regulation in Montana knew there were major problems in the management of the PSC over the last four years. In 2020 when I was chair of ETIC I asked the committee if we could do a deep dive study into how it should be oversighted. They agreed, and for over a year we studied the origin, function and best practices for the Legislature to exercise its role over the PSC. We filed a report for future legislatures on our findings before the last session.

While we were doing the study, we met with the PSC chair at every meeting, and were assured the concerns we saw were being investigated. The audit proved otherwise, and I realized a complete overhaul of the management and administrative culture of the Public Service Committee would be necessary.

Fortunately for Montana, the first stages of this change were met with the election of two new members in the PSC. They worked openly with the audit, strongly agreed with its findings and the recommendations to fix the issues. New Chairman Brown and the commissioners are working hard within the department to resolve these issues once and for all. They have started this dramatic realignment on their initiative, and I am confident in a better performance with the follow up due to occur in October.

We can all agree that the way things were done in the past within the PSC were wrong and the course of this error is being corrected. Let’s remember that when we vote for the next two commissioners in 2022, and make sure those people are committed to the fix before we send them there.

Rep. Derek Skees, R-Kalispell, is running for a seat on Montana’s Public Service Commission.