Beaufort News

Treasurer's Office source of most problems in annual county audit

A 256-page review of Beaufort County's finances has painted a familiar picture of dysfunction within the Treasurer's Office.

County Council was presented Monday with the findings of the Comprehensive Annual Financial Review, in which accountants found six "significant deficiencies" within the county's financial system.

Of those six deficiencies, four were related to problems in the Treasurer's Office, which has been a source of frustration for county officials in the past year.

The review, performed by the Columbia accounting firm Elliot Davis, is required by state law. Tom McNeish of Elliot Davis, who made the presentation Monday, told County Council it is unusual for so many significant deficiencies to originate from one county office.

Accountants also cited problems with how bank deposits are prepared at the Hilton Head Island Airport and found inadequate documentation to support changes made to some real property assessments within the county Assessor's Office.

According to the report, accountants found that too many Treasurer's Office employees have access to a rubber stamp bearing the signature of Treasurer Joy Logan; that other county departments are not required to provide support documentation when requesting expense reimbursements; that journal entries in the county's general ledger are not consistently maintained; and the office failed to immediately provide auditors with the information needed to perform the review.

Logan said Tuesday she had not read the report but said improving the department's procedures and controls is a "work in progress."

Accountants cited three significant deficiencies in the Treasurer's Office in last year's review and one in 2008, according to county records.

County finance director David Starkey said even one such deficiency can signify a major problem.

"These are issues that have to be addressed because, if they are not, they can result in misstatements in the county's finances," Starkey said.

The report's findings were similar to those of a forensic audit released in June that examined how the Treasurer's Office handled the county's yearly tax sale. That report noted the same problems with how employees managed the general ledger, and said co-workers and supervisors seldom verified or double-checked each other's work.

Doug Henderson, who defeated Logan in last week's election and will take office July 1, said recurring problems with controls in the Treasurer's Office are unsettling.

"We need to put in place a better system of checks and balances," said Henderson. "They need to have dual control of those stamps, the checks and the cash. Right now, they have no control."