Recurring finding among others listed in Carter County audit

John Thompson • Jan 15, 2014 at 9:07 PM

ELIZABETHTON — The report of the annual audit of the Carter County government was released Monday and listed nine findings and recommendations, including one that has been a recurring finding for the past three years.

Four of the findings and the recurring problem were in the Circuit Court clerk’s office, three findings were in the school department and one in the office of the mayor.

The recurring finding involved the general ledger account for the Office of Circuit and General Sessions Courts which does not reconcile with trial balances.

Past audits had shown an overage in the amount that should be in the account. This was found to be funds that should have been disbursed to various individuals that were not made during the past several years. The office bookkeeper, Lisa Light, said these accounts go back many years. She has found where some of the funds were supposed to go and made disbursements, but she said she has to do more research to disburse the remaining overage.

The auditor did report that Circuit Court Clerk John Paul Mathes had remitted some unidentified funds to the state as unclaimed property; however, he said the poor records would not allow him to determine if the state Unclaimed Property Act had been followed, which requires that all funds held by the court for more than a year and unclaimed by the owners should be considered abandoned and paid to the state treasurer’s office.

“I am working in the present to keep our books straight and correcting the things in the past,” Light said. She has been the office bookkeeper for the past two years and said one thing the office has needed was a bookkeeper who had been in place for several years.

Some of the findings had to do with the office’s software. The auditor said that problem in addition to errors and management’s lack of oversight meant the records did not adequately reflect the office’s financial activity.

Light said the Circuit Court’s office was the first one in Tennessee to use the software and there were glitches that had to be resolved. She said one of those glitches was in a record of undisbursed funds. Light said when the funds were disbursed, a bill was not created, and the total was not being subtracted from the undisbursed funds. She said there was no indication in the software that there was a problem. Once it was reported by the auditor, Light said the software vendor made immediate corrections. As a result, she said there was a $166,660 improvement.

The auditor also reported the software did not have adequate application controls. The auditor recommended the office get with the software provider to establish adequate controls.

Another computer problem the auditor reported was that deputy clerks could use a universal password to access the system. Light said there was a universal password that could be used on the front counter, but deputy clerks would have to enter their own user identification and password to make transactions.

The findings in the school funds included the finding of deficiencies in employee travel in the Nutrition Department. A planned trip to San Antonio to attend a conference was canceled at the last minute and the department was unable to recoup the $475 registration and a service charge of $150 associated with the airline ticket. The auditor recommended the Nutrition Department adhere to the school system’s travel and credit card policies and every effort should be made to cancel trips soon enough to recoup the deposits.

The auditor also reported that year-end expenditures exceeded appropriations in the school department and the mayor’s office.

In the school department, management said year-end expenses, such as the trustee’s commission had not been sufficiently anticipated and will be anticipated in the future.

County Finance Director Ingrid Deloach said the two items in the mayor’s office were merely a failure to have budget amendments approved by the County Commission. Those included the annual payment by the state of $144,000 for the East Tennessee Railway Authority and an insurance payment for an accident which damaged a door at the Recycling Center. Deloach said the budget amendments were checked prior to the audit, but those were missed.

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