State Auditor Nicole Galloway on Wednesday released an audit of Ozark County government that identified concerns in several county offices and gave a rating of “fair.”
“Our audit highlights several areas of concern for Ozark County officials and also gives them recommendations to better manage taxpayer dollars and resources,” said Galloway. “The responses to the audit indicate those officials are taking many of the steps that were recommended and I encourage them to continue to move forward in order to better serve the citizens of Ozark County.”
A “fair” rating indicates a need to improve in several areas.
The audit identified concerns with accounting controls and procedures in the offices of the sheriff, ex officio recorder of deeds, county assessor and county clerk.
Auditors noted that certain accounting duties were not separated, requiring one person to be responsible for taking payments, recording receipts, depositing and disbursing funds, and reconciling bank accounts, and no supervisory reviews were performed. A recommendation was made that, if those duties could not be separated, more thorough documentation be put in place, along with regular reviews.
Issues were also noted regarding the storage of seized property and related record-keeping. Auditors said they tested 20 seized items and found 40% of them to have errors: inaccurately labeled, found in a different place than logged, not found on the log or not found in evidence.
Responding to recommendations that more thorough record-keeping and inventory be put into practice, Sheriff Darrin Reed told auditors his office is actively working to improve record-keeping and procedures including training, limiting access and disposing of evidence related to closed cases. Once those updates are made, he said, his office will consider conducting an annual inventory.
Auditors noted inmates’ cash on hand was put into an envelope marked with their names upon booking; any cash submitted on the inmates’ behalf was added to the envelope, and any purchases of commissary items made by inmates were taken out. On March 13, auditors noted $498 in cash belonging to seven inmates.
A recommendation was made by auditors to deposit inmates’ funds into an official bank account. Reed informed auditors that all inmate funds are now deposited into an inmate trust fund and refunded to inmates upon release. All funds are reconciled on a monthly bases, he added.
Addressing auditors’ concerns with commissary inventory, Reed also said the sheriff’s office no longer sells phone cards or e-cigarettes; those items are now handled by a commissary vendor.
The audit also found the county did not properly report property tax levy reductions in 2016 and the county clerk used an incorrect tax rate ceiling in the sales tax reduction calculations for 2017. The county clerk has begun the process to correct the tax rate ceiling.
Also discussed in the report were concerns regarding county officials not maintaining appropriate employee time and leave records or following established written personnel policies for vacation leave and compensatory time.
Regarding auditors’ observation of discrepancies in time sheets between the sheriff’s office and the clerk’s office, County Clerk Becki Strong told auditors she has been working with the sheriff’s office administrator to find the most efficient way to fix the issue.
Strong also noted an ongoing issue with advance payments, another concern identified by auditors. She said after the previous state audit, the time sheets were changed to reflect the previous months’ advance payment period and are signed now by employees and their supervisors. In doing so, she said, hours worked can be reconciled with hours paid, and corrections made as needed.
Auditors also reported insufficient controls over county computers to protect them from unauthorized access or loss of data. Strong reportedly told them county officials have committed to requiring passwords meeting safety requirements to be used and changed every three months when possible. However, she said, not all programs in use have the ability to require the changes.
The audit primarily focused on the year 2018 and included reviewing meeting minutes, policies and procedures, financial records; interviewing personnel and external parties; and conducting tests. The state auditor’s office conducts county audits once every four years in counties without an elected auditor.