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A pair of state audits released last week show that Anderson County taxpayers purchased muscle building powder, urinary pain relief tablets, unnecessarily paid sales tax on numerous occasions and revealed a rash of other problems.
Despite being classified by state Auditor Adam Edelen as “clean,” the 2011 and 2012 audits of the Anderson County Fiscal Court reveal issues ranging from how county employees handle cash to credit card purchases that were “unreasonable and/or unnecessary to the purpose of any county business,” according to the report.
Each year’s audit includes lists of what Edelen called “material weaknesses” and “significant deficiencies.”
In the audit reports, Judge-Executive John Wayne Conway was given an opportunity to respond to each of the auditor’s findings and declined.
Contacted Friday, Conway declined to discuss any of the specific findings, but said, “I take full responsibility for everything in the audit reports.”
Conway was judge-executive for the second half of the 2011 fiscal year and all of 2012. His predecessor, Steve Cornish, served through Dec. 31, 2011.
County Treasurer Dudley Shryock said some of the comments made in the audits “have some merit to them and, yes, we’ll fix whatever is there.”
Shryock also said he is surprised that some of the opinions offered in the audits were released.
“I don’t know why some of that stuff was made public,” he said. “Those are the auditor’s recommendations, and they are one person’s opinions. We have different opinions and they kind of nitpicked on us.”
Shryock said the muscle building supplement, Creatine, was purchased by Ronnie Hume, the former parks maintenance supervisor who retired last year. Shryock said it was given to inmates, who also had access to a weight bench in the county park.
“They had a weigh bench in there, but John Wayne got rid of it. Now, we’re not using prisoners, so we fixed that situation.”
Shryock said the purchase of Creatine and urinary pain relief tablets called AZO was caught by auditors who went on the retail store’s website and were able to match the numbers on the receipts to those items.
Another problem noted in the 2012 audit came from $55,000 in improvements to the county’s animal shelter without first bidding that work.
State law requires bids for purchases and projects over $20,000, but that didn’t happen. It also pointed out that the county made a $15,000 payment to the contractor doing the work that was not included on the county’s bills list before it was paid.
Conway alerted the fiscal court to that problem when it was realized last year, and took responsibility for failing to have the project bid.
Also in 2012, the auditor said the county needs better control over expenditures, noting that at least 10 invoices or receipts were missing; two fuel statements did not have fuel receipts attached; and two instances of invoices paid twice resulting in overpayments of $22,573 to one vendor, which was discovered by the vendor and brought to the county’s attention.
It also noted that four invoices were not paid within the required 30 days, and that nine invoices lacked evidence of sufficient review and approval before payment.
The 2012 audit also noted that receipts were not given to park patrons for collection of sports registrations, field rentals and fundraiser/donations collected. The report said daily deposits were sometimes mathematically inaccurate and had no supporting documentation. It also noted that cash was taken from concessions for purchasing supplies/food.
The auditor noted the same problems in 2011, saying that by not having proper internal controls over cash receipts “money could be misplaced or stolen.”
Credit card purchases were also called into question in 2012, with the auditor noting that bills were often paid late, resulting in interest charges, and that sales tax was made on numerous occasions despite the county being tax exempt.
“We shouldn’t have done that,” said Shryock. “We are trying to watch out for that, but sometimes [former finance officer] Rick [Waddle] let that fly through.”
The 2011 report noted issues with employee time cards, including that on eight occasions time sheets were not signed by the employer and/or employee, and that withholding authorization forms were not on file for all deductions.
Credit cards issues also surfaced in 2011, with the auditor saying only one of four credit cards tested had all receipts supporting charges to the cards.
One of the credit cards carried a balance for the entire fiscal year, the auditor said, and along with Creatine and AZO tabs, a credit card was used to purchase automotive epoxy by the parks department but was charged to inmate meals. Inmates were also provided with breakfast items that were charged despite only being authorized for lunches.
Another comments shows that one credit card bill was paid over the phone rather than by check.
The report also shows that “excessive amounts of drinks” were purchased and that charges made for inmate meals did not identify how many inmates were being fed an that the per-inmate amount was not exceeded.
The 2011 audit also pointed out that a log of receipts collected at the judge’s office was maintained for some receipts, but not all. “This log never agreed back to the daily deposit to ensure all funds were properly deposit,” the report said.
All of findings included lengthy suggestions for fixing the problems, suggestions Shryock said aren’t necessarily the only way to do things.
“They are in Frankfort trying to figure out how everyone should do things,” he said. “But when you get in the trenches, our budget doesn’t permit us to hire five people to take care of all of this.
“If you do a cost to benefits analysis, you’d spend more money catching the nickel and dime things and cost taxpayers more in the long run.
“We are administering as efficiently and cost effectively as we can. We’re not General Motors and can’t do everything they suggest, but we try to do the best we can.”
On Friday, a spokesperson for the auditor’s office noted that it is not an enforcement office but does try to assess the amount of risk in the way government bodies function.
“We look at the controls and processes in place,” the spokesperson said. “Those processes are geared toward minimizing risk and when you have multiple findings, that speaks to a heightened sense of risk.