published Thursday, January 30th, 2014

State audit slaps Meigs County with 20 findings

Meigs County financial report
Meigs County financial report

The Tennessee comptroller's office on Wednesday slapped Meigs County with 20 findings in an audit of fiscal year 2013.

Auditors said 16 of the findings were repeats from previous audits of problems that county officials failed to correct, and 13 of the 20 findings were in the finance director's office, according to the Tennessee Comptroller of the Treasury audit.

Findings in the director of finance's office included issues with the way the office handled payroll, purchasing, budgeting and administration of state and federal grants.

The finance office also lacked controls to protect information sources to the extent that auditors were unwilling to describe them in the audit itself because it risked breaching the security of confidential information and could have led to "unauthorized system activity," the audit states.

Meigs County Commission Chairman Brad McKenzie said county officials are working to address the findings and improve technology for record keeping in the finance office.

"While the number of findings and the fact that many were repetitive from past years was alarming and disappointing, it was not surprising," McKenzie said Wednesday. "We were aware we had some issues, and at the time of this meeting [with auditors] were already in the phase of making corrections."

Former Finance Director Randy Baker had to leave his post "prior to this audit cycle or the one preceding it" for medical reasons, and former Finance Director Connie Allen filled in during the interim but was having family medical issues at the time of the audit, McKenzie said.

Officials are interviewing candidates for the post now, he said.

"While I know the county mayor and County Commission take all of the findings seriously, some are expected from year to year, such as the centralization of finances with the schools," McKenzie said. Consolidation of the county budget and the school system budget, four times larger, isn't practical, he said.

"The segregation-of-duties finding has been a repeat in my 12 years of being on the County Commission," McKenzie said. "With smaller counties, some offices simply do not have the manpower to meet generally accepted accounting principles around segregating duties."

In other audit findings:

• The roads supervisor did not submit a complete list of county roads for County Commission approval at its January meeting as required.

• The offices of Trustee and Clerk and Master allowed employees to operate from the same cash drawer.

• The trustee allowed employees to use the same username and password for processing transactions, and the application that issued receipts did not assign consecutive receipt numbers.

• The clerk and master's accounting records didn't adequately reflect financial activity.

• The sheriff's office didn't deposit some collections within three days as required.

• Duties were not adequately segregated in the offices of the finance director, county clerk, Circuit and General Sessions Court clerk, clerk and master, register of deeds, sheriff and ambulance service.

Clerk and Master Janie Myers responded in the audit that the cash drawer finding had been corrected, and that problems and errors arose from a software issue that was addressed with a new system last July. Myers also responded to the segregation-of-duties finding, saying that duties "have been segregated for the last two years," but auditors commented that documentation of that was not presented and state officials saw activities that were "not properly segregated."

"Twenty findings is an unacceptably high number for any audit," Comptroller Justin P. Wilson said in a news release. "It's particularly troubling to me that so many of these findings were also present in previous audits."

Auditors also noted Meigs County has not appointed an audit committee and does not use a centralized system of accounting, budgeting and purchasing, according to the release.

McKenzie said the commission created an audit committee in December and is naming members now.

Contact staff writer Ben Benton at bbenton@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6569.

about Ben Benton...

Ben Benton is a news reporter at the Chattanooga Times Free Press. He covers Southeast Tennessee and previously covered North Georgia education. Ben has worked at the Times Free Press since November 2005, first covering Bledsoe and Sequatchie counties and later adding Marion, Grundy and other counties in the northern and western edges of the region to his coverage. He was born and raised in Cleveland, Tenn., a graduate of Bradley Central High School. Benton ...

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