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County audit reveals procedural problems

Features Editor

The audit report of the Pike County Commission for the fiscal year Oct. 1, 2000, through Sept. 30, 2001, was released Friday by the Department of Examiners of Public Accounts in Montgomery.

The report was immediately made public by County Administrator Harry Sanders, bringing an end to speculation about the "findings" in the audit which have had the rumor mill churning for more than a

month.

The audit included four findings in the Findings and Questioned Costs for the year ending Sept. 30, 2001 and a Corrective Action Plan was submitted to the Pike County Commission.

Sanders said the findings are matters of procedure and, although the findings were not "insignificant" they were not the serious allegations that had been rumored.

"I wish we could have gone public with what we knew earlier to dispel the rumors, but we were not at liberty to do so until the audit

report was released to us," Sanders said.

The "finding" that was behind the rumors concerned the use or misuse of funds in the county commission office.

According to the audit report released Friday, an employee was assigned the duties of a temporarily vacated position. The temporary assignment and the related pay increase were not properly documented in the employee’s personnel file.

The report also stated that the assignment and the pay increase were authorized by the commission chairman and were not documented in the minutes of the commission’s meeting.

Sanders and Karen Berry, commission chairperson, both emphasized that the finding was a matter of procedure.

Sanders said because the employee’s name was not mention in the report he was not prepared to release the name.

"It would not be appropriate for me to do so," he said.

Although he did not release the name of the commission chairman either, Commissioner Willie Thomas was, as a matter of record, the

chairman at that time.

When questioned as to the amount of the pay raise and what the commission has done to correct the breech in procedure, Sanders said if the money had not been paid back, there would have have been more in the findings than there is.

The audit report included the commission’s response to the finding which stated that

the commission will ensure that all temporary assignments be authorized and documented during regular scheduled meetings so that any such changes will be properly documented in the minutes. And, that any time these changes are documented in the minutes, a copy of the minutes will be put in the personnel file to reflect such a change.

Neither Sanders nor Berry had any other explanation as to how a temporary assignment and related pay increase failed to to be documented in the commission’s minutes other than it was a "procedural matter."

Three other procedural matters were significant to warrant inclusion in the Corrective Action Plan by

the Department of Examiners of Public Accounts.

The examiners found that cash forfeited to the Drug Task Force by order of the court was not remitted to the Forfeiture Fund in a timely manner, and control procedures do not adequately ensure that amounts will always be collect.

Sanders did not have the amount of cash that was not appropriately remitted to the proper fund.

However, he said the Drug Task force is made up of several agencies including the Troy and Brundidge police departments, the Pike County Sheriff’s Department and law enforcement agencies from Enterprise and Elba.

"With several agencies involved, it was just a matter of not getting the money to the Forfeiture Fund on time," he said.

The commission’s response to the finding involving the Drug Task Force was that the district attorney’s office and the commission office have met in order to ensure that cash forfeited will be turned into the Forfeiture Fund. The response further stated that the Pike County Commission office will now review court orders from the circuit clerk’s office every six months. At that time, letters will be sent to the entities for all outstanding judgments orders. These letters will also be sent to the district attorney’s office. If the monies are not sent within a two-week period, then a follow up letter and phone call will be given.

That finding was, again, a procedural matter, Sanders and Berry said.

The examiners also stated that signature approvals were not found on the purchase documentation for several expenditures examined.

Again, procedural, Sanders

and Berry said. "Just an oversight. Someone forgetting to sign a purchase order."

However, Sanders said none of the purchase orders were for large amounts, but for items like office supplies.

The commission responded to the examiners finding in a statement that said the commission currently has a purchase procedure in which requisitions must be signed and approved by the purchasing agent before a purchase order can be issued. The commission has also put into place a procedure requiring that the administrator sign all telephone bills, utility bills, etc. All of these bills have been pulled and authorizing signatures have been placed on each.

Another finding was that one solid waste bank account had not been collateralized through the state of Alabama SAFE program.

"That was just a matter of getting a letter to First National Bank of Brundidge," Sanders said. "This account has been collateralized."

Sanders said he and the Pike County wanted the public to have an opportunity to review the findings.

"We’re certainly not trying to hide anything," he said. "We are a public office and we want to be as open and fair as we can in letting the public know what is going on. We hope the audit report will clear up any questions or concerns about the findings."