County auditors reporting that problems still exist

SAGUACHE — Auditors for Saguache County told commissioners during their regular meeting last week they are seeing a repeat of some of the same issues that were highlighted in last year’s audit, issues that have existed in reports from various county auditors for at least a decade.

According to commissioner minutes for July 21, auditor James Hinkle with Hinkle and Company auditors of Greenwood Village, Colorado, reported during a general discussion of the 2019 audit that they are seeing the same types of issues as last year. The County general ledger, however, is doing fine, he said.

The Housing Authority ledger also is good; some things are not clear but they are easy to figure out.
“Social Services is much more complex,” the minutes state. “When you finish a year, all revenues are closed and the fund balance should carry over and should be the same number as it ended. But that is not the case, there is $71,471 where it doesn’t match last year’s.” The Housing Authority and the general ledgers are nearly completed, Hinkle added.

Regarding the issues addressed in last year’s audit, Chris Parker with Hinkle and Company presented the audit in November last year after the county was sanctioned by the state for not filing a timely audit. Regarding internal control issues, the auditors wrote:

“The county does not have a complete system of internal controls to prevent and detect financial misstatements. The county does not have an individual whose responsibility is to oversee the overall accounting and financial reporting functions. As a result, the individual departments are not brought together and coordinated, with proper monthly reconciliations being performed and financial reporting prepared.

The auditors recommend the county “continue its search for personnel who can provide the county with a finance director duties and functions.” (Former Land Use administrator Wendi Maez was later hired to fill the County Administrator position.)

The county’s response to this was: The county recognizes the need for a finance director to coordinate all accounting and financial reporting functions and strengthen internal controls on a daily basis. While management believes it is difficult to find and retain a qualified finance director, the effort will continue.”

Former County Administrator Glen Simpson’s resume shows he had a strong financial background. Simpson, who resigned last year, told the county in his letter of resignation:

“It took me only a couple of weeks to identify vulnerabilities in both your accounting, timekeeping and payment procedures. Weaknesses in payroll, accounts payable and the general ledger are vulnerable to both fraud and embezzlement.”

The auditor also reported problems with Road and Bridge. The department went some $413,000 over its $3.1 million budget, “which may violate state statute. Next year, take a closer look.” Simpson told commissioners in his letter:

“The problem at Road and Bridge is much more than pay rates. Again, you’re aware of the problem, you know what needs to be done, but continue to ignore it.” The auditors also pointed out above that county departments don’t work well together, echoing Simpson:

“From the courthouse to the landfill, employees and county departments do not work well together. You know this, but still you ignore it.”

 Later, under the Social Services section the report explains that, “As a result of this condition [lack of internal controls to prevent and detect financial misstatements], multiple errors in day-to-day accounting were noted.” Particularly cited in this regard was the Social Services fund, cited for many years in a row.

Auditors found that DSS failed to put accurate and consistent information into the eligibility and benefit calculation system, failing to detect and correct non-compliance with eligibility requirements.

Commissioners found multiple errors in the report, where Saguache County was listed as the town of Superior or as a university. They requested the errors be corrected, and Commissioner Jason Anderson asked if the figures in the audit, then, might also be incorrect. Parker assured the BoCC they were accurate and promised to correct the errors immediately.

A correction of errors was later presented to commissioners by Hinkle and state sanctions were lifted.


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