With the exception of one minor finding, Whitley County Sheriff Colan Harrell got a clean financial bill of health on his 2016 fee audit from Kentucky Auditor Mike Harmon Thursday.
State law requires the auditor to annually audit the accounts of each county sheriff. In compliance with this law, the auditor issues two sheriff’s reports each year: one reporting on the audit of the sheriff’s tax account, and the other reporting on the audit of the fee account used to operate the office.
As part of the audit process, the auditor must comment on noncompliance with laws, regulations, contracts, and grants. The auditor must also comment on material weaknesses involving the internal control over financial operations and reporting.
Harmon’s audit found that the Whitley County Sheriff’s office lacks adequate segregation of duties, which is a common audit finding for agencies with small staffs.
The sheriff’s bookkeeper collects payments from customers, posts transactions to the receipts ledger, writes checks, posts checks to the disbursements ledger, and prepares monthly and quarterly reports, according to a release from Harmon’s office.
“The lack of adequate segregation of duties or sufficient oversight has allowed errors to go unnoticed or uncorrected. The Fourth Quarter Report submitted to the Whitley County Fiscal Court was not properly balanced. The balance sheet indicated payroll liabilities still due causing the disbursement to be overstated,” the release stated.
“The lack of oversight could result in undetected misappropriation of assets and inaccurate financial reporting to external agencies such as the Department for Local Government.”
The auditor’s office concluded that this condition is a result of a limited budget, which restricts the number of employees the sheriff can hire or delegate duties to. In addition, this is the bookkeeper’s first year working as the sheriff’s bookkeeper.
“The segregation of duties over various accounting functions, such as opening mail, preparing deposits, recording receipts and disbursements, and preparing monthly reports, or the implementation of compensating controls, is essential for providing protection from asset misappropriation and inaccurate financial reporting. Additionally, proper segregation of duties protects employees in the normal course of performing their daily responsibilities,” the release stated.
“We recommend the sheriff separate the duties involved in receiving cash, preparing deposits, writing checks, posting to ledgers, preparing monthly bank reconciliations, and comparing financial reports to ledgers. If this is not feasible due to a limited budget, cross checking procedures should be implemented and documented by the individuals performing the procedures.”
Harrell’s response to the audit finding was that “cross checking procedures have been initiated between the bookkeeper and the front line clerks.”
The sheriff’s department had $1,592,083 in total receipts for 2016, including: $538,650 from the fiscal court, $348,116 in commission on taxes collected, and $61,341 in fees collected for services, according to the audit.
The sheriff’s department had $1,365,690 in total disbursements for 2016, including $373,989 in deputy salaries, $87,781 in part-time salaries, $121,319 in other salaries, $101,611 in employer paid health insurance and $53,607 in gasoline. The sheriff’s department returned $127,160 in excess fees to the fiscal court, according to the audit.
A complete copy of the audit can be obtained by logging onto the state auditor’s website at www.auditor.ky.gov.