Originally created 07/10/01

Augusta office audits reveal inaccuracies



Random audits of a handful of city of Augusta offices point to a lack of policy and a failure to follow procedure as common explanations for several unbalanced government accounts.

The inaccuracies, characterized as minor and "nothing to be concerned about," were presented to the Augusta Commission's finance and appropriations committee Monday afternoon by the city's internal auditors, Baird and Co..

"There's nothing to indicate (the city's) going down the tubes," said J.T. Cosnahan, a partner with the company.

Since 1999, there have been "substantial improvements" in the city's record-keeping and accounting procedures, Mr. Cosnahan said. Commissioners might find that implementing additional safeguards might cost more than money saved from averting crime.

Audit reports showed miscoded accounts, posting errors, inconsistencies in following written accounting procedures and unguarded petty cash in multiple city departments.

For example, procedures for documenting vehicle maintenance and gasoline consumption by city vehicles were often ignored, making it difficult to check for overbilling, auditors said.

In the Department of Parks and Recreation, auditors noted a lack of cash controls, such as not entering sales into a cash register; a failure to keep bank receipts of cash deposits; and leaving money on site for more than one day, instead of depositing it at the end of a business day. Auditors, in their findings, said such practices increase the risk of theft and reduce the accuracy of deposited amounts.

City Administrator George Kolb will work directly with department heads in the offices that were audited - including the Departments of License and Inspection, Parks and Recreation, Tax Assessor, Tax Commissioner and Fleet Management - to consider possible improvements.

"Some areas where there was something lacking, either we were lacking a procedure or the procedure wasn't being followed," Mr. Kolb said. "I'm going to ask them all - anybody that had a finding - to respond back to the commission."

Commissioners said they will use the information later this year when working toward a balanced budget for 2001.

"We're going to need accurate information from the field to do it," Commissioner Andy Cheek said.

Reach Heidi Coryell at (706) 823-3215.