New York State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli today announced his office completed audits of the Town of Cincinnatus, Town of Hancock, Hudson Housing Authority, Ithaca Area Wastewater Treatment Facility, Town of Saratoga and the Vischer Ferry Volunteer Fire Company.
“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 board should improve its oversight of town financial operations. Although required to be reviewed annually, the board has not updated its procurement policy in almost 20 years and did not ensure that town officials and employees followed it. Further, the claims audit process was inadequate, and the board did not ensure an annual audit was completed for the departments that received and/or disbursed funds.
Town officials are not ensuring that transfer station revenues are sufficient to cover the costs of operating the transfer station. Users of the station were required to obtain a sticker from the town clerk at an annual cost of $5 in 2015 and $10 in 2016. Additionally, the town of Tompkins pays the town $2,200 annually for its residents to use the transfer station. In 2015, however, the town collected total revenues of $11,600, including scrap sales of $5,300, sticker sales of $4,100 and the $2,200 payment from the town of Tompkins, but expended $57,100 for transfer station operations.
During the audit period, the authority had cash receipts of approximately $1,036,000. However, the board and authority officials have not adopted policies and procedures to ensure that cash receipt, cash disbursement and bank reconciliations duties are segregated. As a result, the administrative assistant bills, receives and records cash receipts and reconciles bank accounts. The assistant also prepares the monthly financial report to the board. In addition, the board has not established compensating controls such as reviews of the administrative assistant’s work.
During the audit period, facility officials completed several energy performance improvements. Officials replaced the aging cogeneration system with four microturbines for electricity generation. They also installed a skid, a new methane storage bubble and more efficient mixers to improve capacity and efficiency and replaced aging boilers with high-efficiency units. As a result of these energy performance upgrades, the facility realized a 40 percent increase in biogas production from 2013 through 2015 and achieved a net total of $211,000 in energy cost savings.
The board implemented adequate internal controls to ensure that financial activity was properly recorded and reported and that program moneys were safeguarded. The town implemented procedures for collection, recording, depositing and disbursing program funds that appropriately segregate these duties.
The board needs to improve its oversight of the company’s cash disbursement process to ensure that cash disbursements are approved and for valid company purposes. The board did not review any disbursements before the treasurer disbursed company funds. Disbursements in the form of check, debit card and cash withdrawals were made without the prior approval by a majority of the company’s voting members who were present at a meeting, as required by the constitution.
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.