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County audit raises red flags

Published: 6:05 PM, 12/11/2012 Last updated: 6:15 PM, 12/11/2012

Source: The Rogersville Review

By Bill Grubb
News Editor

ROGERSVILLE - Auditors raised several red flags in their most recent review of Hawkins County's finances.
    The audit of the fiscal year ending June 2012, released in November by the Tennessee Division of Local Government Audit, yielded six "findings" and two recommendations that auditors believe would improve the county's "accountability and quality of services provided to the citizens in Hawkins County."
    The first "finding" dealt with four thefts from the Highway 113 convenience center, which occurred in July and August 2012.  According to the audit document, the thefts were reported to the Hawkins County Sheriff's Office as well as to the state Comptroller's Office.
    "Approximately $600 worth of scrap metal, including chairs, lawn and garden equipment, and batteries, plus a surveillance camera, were removed from the convenience center," auditors noted.
    According to the report, one employee resigned and was not charged.
    "In the other three instances, a former employee was charged with three counts of burglary and one count of theft under $500.  The former employee pled guilty to the burglary and theft charges on September 26, 2012, was ordered to pay $60 in restitution," the audit states.
    The audit report also notes an undetermined amount of Joseph Rogers School cafeteria funds were "stolen" which resulted in an "undetermined cash shortage."
    "On March 7, 2012, the cafeteria manager admitted taking cafeteria funds and was placed on leave without pay status pending an investigation.  On June 6, 2012, the cafeteria manager's employment was terminated.  On October 3, 2012, the (former) cafeteria manager pled guilty to theft under $500, received one year probation and was fined $100," the report states.
    The report also notes auditors "could not determine the amount of the cash shortage" due to inaccurate or incomplete records and recommended school officials adopt new policies, which they indicated they would.
      The second "finding" dealing with the school system criticizes the Hawkins County School System Maintenance Department for skirting around a legal requirement to obtain competitive bids to purchase three used vehicles for $9,999.99 - a penny less than the $10,000 required for the bidding process.  The price was apparently an attempt "to circumvent the county's purchasing requirements" the document claims.
    The school system purchased the three vehicles, all from the same dealership, in August 2011.   The school system also purchased two additional vehicles from the same dealership in July and August 2012 for $9,998 and $9,990.
    State law does allow the purchase of used vehicles, with certain documentation, which was not included in the purchases.
    "As a result, the lowest and best price may not have been obtained for the purchase of these vehicles," the report warns.
    The report also notes:
    The trustee's office had deficiencies in its accounting records:
    The clerk & masters office spent $8,156 for furniture without proper authorization; and
    The assessor's office failed to prorate new construction.
    The annual also contains two long-standing recommendations, that the county should adopt a central system of accounting and budgeting and that the county should establish an audit committee.
    The audit also shows fund balances as of the end of the 2011-12 fiscal year including:
      $5,259,491 for the county's general fund;
      $535,834 for the solid waste fund;
      $251,071 for the drug control fund;
      $2,971,492 for the highway fund;
      $4,022,294 for the general debt service fund;
      $1,562,268 for the special debt service fund;
      $9,606,316 for the education debt service fund;
     $11,231,269 for the general purpose school fund;  and
      $627,338 for the transportation fund.

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