Former state Wildlife and Fisheries Secretary Robert Barham defended his spending practices before a panel of lawmakers who were discussing an audit that accuses Barham of misappropriating BP funds while in office.

Barham admits LDWF made extraordinary and unusual purchases, like three metal shark boats.

“Would we have bought that in normal times? No we wouldn’t have but BP was encouraging us to spend money so they could do an advertisement that they were concerned about what was going on in Louisiana.”

The audit says samples of fish taken after the oil spill sat for days and were not properly tested. But Barham says those samples were frozen and properly taken. He says the department was put in charge of bringing the seafood back into the market.

“So we needed to do a good job, and we did a good job of the sampling. There is more to seafood sampling than testing, then just cutting a chunk of meat out of a fish.”

The critical audit of LDWF’s spending practices looked at purchases made from 2010 to 2015, when Barham was secretary. Barham says suggestions that there were systemic problems couldn’t be further from the truth.

“We made mistakes and I’ll take the blame for this mistakes but it wasn’t by intent. And in total, we did a great job, including this seafood safety program.”