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No major flags with county audit

Washington County received an unqualified opinion with no major flags in the audit report of its financial statements for fiscal year 2011-2012.
Melissa Steagall-Jones, of the county’s auditing firm Blackburn, Childers and Steagall, provided an overview during the Dec. 14 meeting of the Washington County Audit Committee.
The county’s General Fund has seen a $3 million increase from last year’s report, which comes from the $1 million sale of the Downtown Centre in Johnson City and reduced spending.
Total debt for Washington County stands at $153 million.
“This can all be paid without adding another dime to the debt service fund,” Mayor Dan Eldridge noted. “It was structured that way to keep it level.”
While BCS found no material weaknesses in the constitutional offices, there were some findings on internal control and compliance. Four areas of significant deficiency were documented in the report.
A significant deficiency is less severe than a material weakness, yet important enough to merit the attention by those charged with governance, according to BCS.
A deficiency in the Sheriff’s Office was found in the collection of fees and timeliness of deposits related to the Sex Offender Registry.
BCS recommends documentation be kept for the Sex Offender Registry reconciling to receipt of payment or formal documentation explaining lack of payment.
In addition, all revenue should be submitted for timely deposit within three business days of receipt following segregation of duties guidelines.
Steagall-Jones said Sheriff Ed Graybeal has already implemented actions to correct the process.
The other three deficiencies were related to Washington County’s internal controls in the preparation of governmentwide adjustments, proper identification of fixed assets, and timely approval of the annual budget.
The county has made progress in identifying the fixed assets, but more improvement is needed, according to BCS.
“One of the highest risks for the county is people walking away with small equipment,” Steagall-Jones said.
She also wants to see improvement in the timelines for the preparation and adoption of the annual budget, with county officials submitting numbers to the Budget Committee by the March 31 deadline.
Eldridge said one of the challenges comes from autonomous offices that have the freedom to act independently.
Additional points of concern Steagall-Jones discussed with Audit Committee members are non-adherence to fuel use policies by the school system for Board of Education-owned vehicles; and the need for copies of the separate personnel policies to be filed with the county clerk by the four offices that chose to opt out of the county personnel policy.
Those four include the school system, the sheriff’s office, the highway department, and the clerk and master’s office.
“The sheriff’s and highway offices have already corrected this,” Steagall-Jones said.
Something else being looked at is the documentation and receipt procedure followed by vendors working in the Detention Center, she added.
As a means to strengthen internal controls and improve operating efficiency, BCS recommends centralizing the responsibility for health insurance with one employee of the county, and adding an in-house information technology staff person to oversee the contractor and be responsible for security administration.
Eldridge said a comprehensive plan to address needs in the human resources area will be presented to the County-Owned Property Committee at the first of next year.
“We could implement this plan and have a net savings from day one,” he said.
A second draft of the updated personnel policy, along with the proposed administrative reorganization, will also be reviewed in January 2013. Paige Carter made a motion to recommend the audit report to the county commission. The motion was seconded by Edwina Greer and passed unanimously.