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By Sandy Schroth
Editor 

Antelope County audit results released

 

November 19, 2020



Antelope County’s annual audit report was released by the Nebraska auditor of public accounts office early this month.

Auditors once again advised segregation of duties for the county, overall. The NPA recommended officials weigh the cost to hire additional personnel against the benefit of segregating duties.

Drafts of the report outlining auditors’ findings were provided to county officials to review, giving them an opportunity to respond, according to a letter, dated Nov. 2, from Deann Haeffner, assistant deputy auditor.

Only one issue identified by auditors garnered a response from the respective county official. Auditors noted an error in overload fee distribution by the county treasurer. Fees of $6,402 were erroneously distributed to school districts in the county, rather than 75% to a state highway fund and 25% to the county’s General Fund, as directed by the Nebraska Constitution.

The county’s share of the fees during the year ending June 30, 2020, should have been $1,601, while the state would have received $4,801. Those funds were sent to Neligh-Oakdale, Elgin Public, Nebraska Unified Dist. #1, Ewing Public, Creighton Public, Elkhorn Valley and Plainview Public schools instead.

Antelope County treasurer Deb Branstiter responded, “I agree with this finding and have corrected this erroneous overload-fee distribution. Procedures have been updated to ensure overload fees are distributed correctly in the future.”

The board of commissioners were critiqued for authorizing duplicate claims payments, including payouts to Dean’s Market for $1,320, dated June 9 and June 23, 2019; Road Builders Machinery, $602, dated Sept. 10 and Oct. 8, 2019; and Truck Center of Norfolk, $304 on March 10 and April 14, 2020. In addition, a meal reimbursement for $11 was included twice, resulting in duplicate payment to a county employee.

Only part of the funds was recovered by the county.

“For the first two duplicate disbursements, the county received credits to recover the overpayments; however, the county was made aware of the duplicate claims by the vendors, lacking the proper internal controls to identify those overpayments itself,” Haeffner wrote. “For the last duplicate payment, no credit was received as of fieldwork in mid-September 2020.”

Auditors recommend the board implements procedures to ensure claims are reviewed prior to approval.

The clerk of the district court had one issue identified during the fiscal year. It was noted adequate follow up on overdue balances was not being performed. As of July 10, the overdue case account report had 46 overdue balances, totaling $39,994, related to criminal cases. Only six cases, totaling $4,650, had a current warrant issued.

“We recommend the district court implement procedures to ensure the Overdue Case Account Report is reviewed on an ongoing, timely basis, and such review is adequately documented,” Haeffner wrote. “Potential courses of action for follow-up on overdue case balances would include the issuance of warrants, a judge’s determination and order to waive certain costs, if allowable, or a declaration of certain balances as being uncollectible.”

The report identified two issues with the county attorney’s accounting procedures, down from four reported in the previous audit.

•Bad check restitution, totaling $1,287, was not paid out in a timely manner. As of June 30, the following funds had not been paid out: fiscal year 2014, $204; 2015, $316; 2016, $108; 2017, $534; and 2019, $125.

• Monthly reconciliations between the bank balance and office records were not completed. As of June 30, 2020, the office liabilities (fee and trust accounts) exceeded office assets (cash on hand, reconciled bank balance, etc.), resulting in an unknown short of $75. A known short of $56, due to a fee assessed by Western Union for not cashing two money orders in a timely manner, was also noted.

The second issue is identical to one reported in 2019. County attorney Joe Abler responded at that time, noting staff had been educated in proper reconciliation procedures and instructed by auditors how to note shortages in the account register and make necessary adjustments to balance the trust account register.

Four issues were noted in the county sheriff’s accounting of two accounts.

• On June 30, office records indicated an unexplained cash long of $972 in the sheriff’s fee account. The sheriff was unable to designate the proper recipient of these funds.

• On June 30, office records indicated a short of $11 in the sheriff’s commissary account. This was a result of the inmates’ balances, totaling $267, exceeding the reconciled book balance of $256.

• The June 30 bank reconciliation for the commissary account did not include two outstanding checks, totaling $150, which were written at the end of June. In addition, the sheriff’s office maintained two different book balances for the account, one documented in the check book ($405), and another documented in the electronic register ($420). With the exception of not including the two outstanding checks, the check book reflected the correct balance.

• The commissary account had a check clear the bank twice in July 2019. In February 2020, the bank credited the account for this duplicate payment; however, in April 2020, the bank reversed the credit from February, as it was past the bank policy’s deadline for allowing corrections. No reimbursement has been claimed to the county for this duplicate payment as of fieldwork in mid-September 2020.

“We recommend the county sheriff implement procedures to ensure the following: 1) office assets (cash on hand, reconciled bank balances and accounts receivable) agree with office liabilities (fees on hand, trust accounts and accounts payable), and any variances noted are resolved timely; 2) reconciliations are accurate and completed in a timely manner; and 3) bank charges that are not credited by the bank are submitted to the county for reimbursement,” Haeffner said. “Without such procedures, there is an increased risk for loss, misuse, or theft of public funds. A similar finding was noted in the prior audit.”

In addition, auditors noted the sheriff’s office charged a commissary fee on items sold, at the cost of the item plus a markup. However, the county board had not approved the fees. During the fiscal year, commissary fees, totaling $39,230, were collected and remitted to the county treasurer.

“Nebraska statute assigns the responsibility of managing county funds and business to the county board,” Haeffner said. “Good internal control and sound accounting practice require procedures to ensure that fees not specified by state statute are designated by the board and documented in the minutes of the meetings during which they were authorized. By doing so, the community will be made aware of amounts charged for public services. Without such procedures, there is an increased risk for the loss or misuse of funds.”

A similar finding was noted in the prior audit, according to Haeffner’s letter to the commissioners.

The assistant deputy auditor again indicated the report is considered “critical in nature,” due to inclusion of only areas needing improvement with no observation given regarding any strong features.

 

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