New York State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli today announced his office completed audits of Bohemia Fire District, Village of Candor, Town of East Hampton, Islip Housing Authority, Jefferson Community College, City of Lockport, Sullivan County Community College, City of Troy and the West Ghent 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 district did not use competitive bidding for purchases totaling $64,405 from two vendors. The district made payments totaling $231,174 to 20 vendors without obtaining the required number of quotes as required by their purchasing policy. The board did not follow its procurement policy, but instead appointed specific vendors to provide goods and services for the year, without obtaining competitive bids. Also, officials did not ensure that the district is incurring only necessary overtime costs.
The board has no clear plans for the use of the accumulated funds and has not developed a fund balance policy or comprehensive long-term financial and capital plans specifying the village's objectives and goals for using the accumulated funds.
Auditors found that the significant revenue and expenditure projections in the tentative budget were reasonable and the town's 2018 tentative budget complies with the property tax cap levy limit.
While the board has generally ensured that cash disbursements are adequately supported, for valid authority purposes and properly recorded, it needs to improve the cash disbursements process to ensure that all aspects are properly performed. The director approves purchases, audits all claims and signs checks, while the assistant director also audits the claims and countersigns the checks. However, these duties are incompatible because the director has the ability to procure and pay for goods or services that may not be for valid authority purposes. In addition, the account clerk is authorized to use their electronic signatures without their direct supervision.
The college generally complied with competitive bidding statutes and its purchasing policy. College officials sought competition for three professional services costing $89,568 but they did not seek routine competition for services provided by an insurance agency that was paid $86,013 during the audit period. The college's purchasing policy also does not address insurance coverage.
City officials did not provide evidence that they prepared cash flow estimates for 2018, which would have allowed them to determine if unrestricted fund balance levels in the water, sewer and refuse funds were adequate. The common council should consider whether the contingency appropriations are adequate if collective bargaining agreements are approved and unanticipated retirements occur. They should also ensure that the appropriation for police overtime is reasonable when adopting their final budget. The city's proposed budget is in compliance with the property tax levy limit.
College officials need to improve safeguards over personal, private and sensitive information on college websites, applications and servers and ensure the data stored is adequately secured and protected against unauthorized use, access and loss. Auditors found unnecessary user accounts that were not disabled or removed and inadequate protection of server room equipment. The board also did not establish policies and procedures regarding breach notifications and disaster recovery plans.
Significant revenue and expenditure projections in the proposed budget are reasonable. The proposed budget includes estimated revenues of $3.45 million for refuse and garbage fees to finance the city's waste and recycling services, but the council has not yet authorized or approved a combined waste and recycling fee to realize the estimated revenues. All six of the city's collective bargaining agreements have expired and the city faces potential significant increased salary and wage cost when these agreements are settled. The city's proposed budget is in compliance with the property tax levy limit.
The board did not segregate the treasurer's incompatible financial duties or provide any oversight of the treasurer's work, such as reviewing monthly bills or the treasurer's records. As a result, the treasurer was able to inappropriately make $69,084 in unauthorized withdrawals and disbursements from September 2007 through 2014 without detection. The treasurer withdrew $51,228 from the company's bank account and made $4,100 unauthorized credit card purchases without company approval or detection. The treasurer also wrote $13,756 unauthorized checks that included $6,547 in unauthorized payments to herself, $4,735 in checks written to cash, $1,650 check disbursements for personal expenses and $825 in unauthorized payments to her husband, the chief. These audit findings were referred to OSC's Division of Investigations. The treasurer pleaded guilty in Columbia County Court to falsifying business records in the first degree and was sentenced in August 2017.
For access to state and local government spending, public authority financial data and information on 140,000 state contracts, visit Open Book New York. The easy-to-use website was created to promote transparency in government and provide taxpayers with better access to financial data.