Sat08022014

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Wednesday, 05 February 2014 15:35

How did county finance not catch on?

Written by 

To the Editor:

The alleged embezzlement of around $50,000 from Macon County taxpayers by a county employee highlights incompetency within the county’s “award winning” finance department. The allegations in Judge Letts’ search warrant for the Macon County Board of Elections (BOE) office lay out the damning details.

The alleged embezzler wrote at least 29 “check requests” between July 2013 and mid-January 2014 with insufficient documentation and no or forged signature authorizations. Without hesitation finance’s accounts payable (A/P) issued checks totaling around $50,000 to sham vendors. The checks were given to the embezzler who allegedly pocketed the money.

Macon County, with more than 400 employees and a budget of nearly $60 million annually, has a finance department using purchase order (PO) and payment procedures appropriate for a “mom and pop” shop.

Why would the county’s finance department process any “check requests” except in very limited and carefully controlled circumstances? To handle 29 “check requests” from one employee over a short period is astounding. Especially since many didn’t meet authorization requirements, involved “vendors” who weren’t vetted, receipt of services wasn’t verified, and checks weren’t mailed to the vendors. Was there a co-conspirator within the finance department? Will any finance department employees be disciplined for failure to follow procedures? Are there any written procedures?

“Check requests” are ripe for fraud and at least one employee figured that out. How many other undetected embezzlements have occurred, or are occurring, within Macon County government?

The county manager must hire an independent forensic auditor, or an auditor from the Office of the State Auditor, to thoroughly review all aspects of Macon County’s Finance Department. The forensic auditor must assure everyone that no other illegal activities have occurred or are occurring, and assure that all purchasing procedures in the finance department are brought up to 21st century standards.

Until a forensic audit is completed, corrective actions are implemented, and a public report is issued to county residents answering all questions raised, residents should have no confidence that the county’s finance department is protecting taxpayers’ money.

Vic Drummond

Franklin

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