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Hernando County clerk says purchasing system vulnerable to misuse

BROOKSVILLE — After two audits over the past five years identifying ways county staff can cut the risk of misusing purchasing cards, the Clerk of the Circuit Court on Friday made a final report saying there are still a dozen unresolved concerns but that it's up to the county to deal with it.

"It is management's role to consider potential liabilities, inefficiencies, ineffectiveness, business risk, negative public perception and compliance with rules, regulations and laws,'' wrote audit services director Peggy Caskey.

"It is also management's role to determine what level of "risk" is acceptable,'' she continued. "Since management did not submit Action Plan Status Comments for this follow-up audit and management did not take corrective action to alleviate these concerns, it is reasonable to conclude management has accepted these risks and will be held accountable for the impact that decision may have on operations.''

She concluded that there are no plans to follow up audits again so "the concerns referenced in this letter have been closed without resolution.''

Beyond the issues of processes to ensure accountability raised in the audits, Caskey also notes there is a problem with timely processing of purchase card statements and support documents.

"This is an internal control failure that could lead to concealment of employee abuse or criminal activity,'' she wrote.

Despite the criticisms, county purchasing director Jim Gantt said that the purchasing card program has run smoothly and he was not aware of any instances of intentional misuse.

The county implemented the Visa purchasing credit card system in April 1998, and at the time of the previous audit there were 356 active purchasing cards, plus 20 emergency cards.

After the first audit, Gantt implemented a number of the suggested changes. Some he didn't agree with and "a number of the recommendations they made would require additional staff and additional funds,'' he said.

"In the real world, we just don't have that and we continue to lose staff,'' he said.

Some of the recommendations would require the county to divide duties up among more people or require the county to keep both an electronic and a written copy of duplicate documents.

"It would be great if we had all the resources in the world to do all that stuff, but we don't,'' Gantt said.

Other recommendations included changing written policies to conform to new procedures already put in place to tighten controls. Gantt said he completed those and sent them on to the county administrator's office for review but they have not yet been acted upon.

"The bottom line on this was that it was submitted to the county administrator's office a year and a half ago and the county administrator never responded back to this office,'' Gantt said. "But to be honest with you, there were a whole lot more important things going on last year than some audit stuff.''

County Administrator David Hamilton could not be reached for comment on Friday.

Barbara Behrendt can be reached at behrendt@sptimes.com or (352) 848-1434.

Hernando County clerk says purchasing system vulnerable to misuse 03/26/10 [Last modified: Friday, March 26, 2010 7:57pm]
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