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Audit finds problems still linger for government

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By Jessica Singleton

The latest audit of the Owen County Fiscal Court has determined that some of the county’s money management problems lingered in 2008.

The audit revealed seven problems during the 2008 fiscal year. Many of the problems mirror the money management issues discovered during the 2007 audit.

Owen County Judge-Executive Billy O’Banion said many of the problems discovered during the 2007 audit are in the process of being fixed. He said the duplication of the 2007 and 2008 audits is because the two were held so close together.

The first problem discovered by the auditors is a lack of internal controls over payroll. This happened while former Owen County Deputy Judge-Executive Renaee Gaines was still in office.

In late December, Gaines pleaded guilty to several charges in connection with the problems at the courthouse.

The audit found Gaines had been overpaid $2,917. The report states the overpayment was not in this year’s budget because the checks had been backdated to 2005.

Another payroll error was O’Banion received an additional training incentive check in October 2007.

The audit also found the payroll bank account was not balanced monthly, which made it difficult to keep track of the payroll funds.

The report also revealed problems with payment of county expenses, mainly that bills were not paid on time and that bills were being paid without fiscal court approval.

The report repeated last year’s findings that the bookkeeping system did not have the right safety policies.

The audit recommends the fiscal court find a system that has strong security features.

There are also problems with the classification of full- and part-time employees. The audit found several employees working less than 40 hours a week were receiving health and retirement benefits. A written response from Owen County Attorney Charlie Carter said that a resolution was passed to define a full-time employee as anyone who works 100 hours a month.

The audit also repeated last year’s concern about the magistrates’ expense allowance.

In response to the problem, the fiscal court has changed how the magistrates are reporting their time and expenses.

The auditors also renewed concerns about ambulance billing practices. The audit said the county sent letters to the company that handles the billing requesting that some of the ambulance bills be waived.

“The practice of forgiving certain ambulance bills not only results in lost revenue for the ambulance service, it also indicates preferential treatment for some county residents,” the report said.

In response, the fiscal court has passed a resolution that all the uncollected ambulance bills will be passed to Carter for collection.

 The final concern addressed by the auditors is the recording of fiscal court revenue.

A check to the Owen County Fiscal Court for $8,188 was not recorded in the county record books and was not deposited into a county bank account.

The check was sent to the parks and recreation bank account instead. The check should have been deposited in a county account and then the funds could be sent to the parks and recreation account.

Carter said the county has made every effort to address the problems.