New York State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli today announced his office completed audits of the Town of Ellicot, Geneva Housing Authority, Town of Hadley, High Falls Water District, Town of Leicester, City of Newburgh, Niagara County Court and Trust, Village of Scottsville and the Town of Ulster.
“In today’s fiscal climate, budget transparency and accountability for our local communities is a top priority,” said DiNapoli. “By auditing municipal finances and operations, my office continues to provide taxpayers the assurance that their money is being spent appropriately and effectively.”
The justices did not segregate the duties of the full-time court clerk, who controlled all phases of the court’s cash collection, recording and reporting process with minimal oversight. As a result, the clerk was able to manipulate court records and admitted to embezzling funds.
The authority does not follow procedures for depositing cash that exceeds the policy’s overnight cash level. Cash receipt duties were not adequately segregated and compensating controls were insufficient. In addition, access rights to the housing software and accounting system are not properly restricted.
The board conducted a deliberate and thorough audit of claims, the claims contained adequate supporting documentation and evidence that the goods or services were received and the claims were for legitimate town purposes. Auditors commended town officials for designing and implementing an effective system of controls over the board’s claims auditing process.
The district’s internal controls over billing, collecting and enforcing water fees need to be improved. Additionally, the interest amount charged for late balances has not been approved and was not charged in the proper billing quarter.
The board needs to improve its budgeting process to properly budget for and monitor town financial operations. The board has not adopted policies and procedures or a long-term financial plan to govern the budget process or the appropriate level of fund balance to maintain in each fund.
The city continues to budget minimal amounts for contingencies, which provided the city with minimal flexibility to address revenue shortfalls or unforeseen expenditures. The 2016 proposed budget does not include an allowance for uncollectible taxes. The city’s proposed budget complies with the tax levy limit.
The records maintained by the surrogate’s court and county clerk were generally up-to-date and complete, and there were no material discrepancies. However, auditors identified funds from 71 actions totaling $251,392 that improperly remained in the county’s custody that should have been turned over to the State Comptroller’s Office as abandoned property.
Village officials did not develop policies or procedures to govern budgeting practices or a comprehensive multiyear financial plan. As a result, the board did not adopt realistic annual budgets and did not receive sufficient financial information to effectively monitor the budget throughout the year.
The town did not consistently receive financial records from one of the fire companies to be used as a basis for determining the amount that should be paid for fire protection services.
For access to state and local government spending and nearly 50,000 state contracts, visit OpenBookNY. The easy-to-use website was created by Comptroller DiNapoli to promote openness in government and provide taxpayers with better access to the financial workings of government.