Warren County’s negative audit findings might not be as bad as they seem, according to information gathered during a follow-up meeting held Thursday to discuss the situation.
Audit Committee members met in March to review the county’s financial audit done by the Tennessee Division of Local Government Audit for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2014. Five issues were found. At that time, members were informed that all but one of the issues had been rectified.
The finding not yet corrected was that the offices of County Clerk, Register of Deeds, and Sheriff are not spreading out certain duties adequately. In each department, only one person oversees the financial bookkeeping. Expanding that responsibility would prevent fraud or human error, the audit found.
Audit Committee members decided to invite all the county’s elected officials to a meeting to openly discuss the audit findings, including those that had been corrected, and to offer assistance to the three departments in correcting the accounting procedures so next year’s audit would not reflect a negative finding.
In attendance Thursday were Register of Deeds Terry Smith, Assessor of Property Beth Martin, County Court Clerk Lesa Scott, Circuit Court Clerk Bernie Morris, Clerk and Master Myra Mara, and Sheriff Jackie Matheny.
“To all you elected officials, thank you for coming to visit with us for a little while this morning,” said Wayne Cantrell, the county’s Audit Committee chairman.
The county’s Audit Committee has no control over the activities in the various departments. Cantrell avoided any appearance the committee would be acting to micromanage.
“I want to say, first off, that we have no control over you,” Cantrell said. “We don’t anticipate having any control over you. We are not trying to have any control over you. We are not here to hurt you in any way or have any adverse relationship at all. We are here to help you, if we can and in any way that we can.”
Bernie Morris says her department has been included in that same audit finding in the past and would have been included this year but she wrote a letter outlining her department’s accounting process.
“We wrote a letter of our segregation of duties and that’s how we got by this,” said Morris. “That’s how we slid through this last time. We are usually written up for segregation of duties.”
Terry Smith stated his department was included this year despite the fact his office has more than one person taking financial responsibility, leading him to believe the auditors are not looking closely at the process
“I don’t think they understand the process that is taken in the departments and what we are doing,” said Smith.
Finance Department director Linda Hillis suggested each of the departments write down their accounting process and present it to the auditors every year in order to avoid being added to the list in error.
Lesa Scott and Jackie Matheny stated they were both in the midst of establishing processes within their departments to better separate the accounting duties in order to prevent being included in next year’s audit findings.
Because the Audit Committee has no authority over the departments, the meeting ended after a brief discussion.