Adverse Opinion: A Look Back At Presidio County's Latest Audit
A new county auditor for Presidio County has been chosen and it’ll be Rick Herrman of Fort Davis. Tuesday, District Judge Roy Ferguson will hold a public meeting on the appointment. One reason, Judge Ferguson cites for the creation of this position was the 2012 audit – one of the worst in recent history.
Twelve invoices, that’s all the auditor needed from the Treasurer Mary Lane Williams’ office. In Fall 2013, Williams knew exactly where those invoices should be. Three boxes with the invoices from fiscal year 2012 had been moved a couple months earlier to the archives in the old jail. But when she went to pull the files the boxes weren’t there.
“And I went over there and the boxes weren’t there," said Williams. "There’s no way I can describe the feeling because I could not fulfill that part. But they should not have disappeared; they should be there. When I went to pull them they should have been there for me to pull."
Those missing files weren’t the only reason Presidio County got a terrible audit. There were problems reconciling bank records, keeping track of payroll, and tracking grants. To get a sense of how bad the audit really was I sent over a copy to Robert Rickettes, the director of Texas Tech’s accounting program.
"This was about as bad an audit report that I’ve ever seen," said Rickettes. "What really stood out to me was a really basic thing which was that – from reading the audit report – the county wasn’t reconciling their bank accounts on a timely or regular basis; it kind of looks like they don’t have an accounting system at all."
The problem, as Rickettes explains it, is that without the proper controls in place the county is vulnerable to misappropriation of funds, whether its intentional or accidental. In addition, the repercussion in this situation could be worse because some of those funds are from federal grants.
Of course, having such a bad audit wasn’t going to go unnoticed. The court addressed the findings in the audit and outlined a plan to fix each of the weaknesses. This included the hiring of Patty Roach as an in-house auditor. She is with Lannom and Roach Certified Public Accountants.
"What we’re concentrating on now is primarily reconciliation of bank accounts for the county," said Roach.
Roach has been coordinating with the auditor of the 2012 audit, Dan Painter, to determine which of the problems to fix first. Next up, working on grant documentation and tracking federal funds.
I asked Rickettes what he thought of Presidio County's plan to address all the problems outlined in the audit.
"Yeah, that’s the part that really bothers you, that this is all forward looking – we’re going to do this," said Rickettes.
Rickettes added that if the county took the problem seriously it could take care of the problem relatively quickly. He said that though it may require the hiring of more personnel, the county needed to put in place an accounting system that worked.
But Roach may not have much time to fix the county’s accounting problems. That’s because District Judge Roy Ferguson has named Rick Herrman as the county auditor. And it’s still an open question if Roach will be kept around. Herrman won’t be alone; Ferguson also created two assistant auditor positions. That may end up costing the county $150,000 annually.
But perhaps the most tangible change is access to records. It used to be easier to get into the archives. Now, not only do you have go to the sheriff’s office, you have to have a co-signer to check out the key. As for the three missing boxes filled with invoices, they were found a month after the audit was presented, one door down from the Treasurer’s office in another department’s storage room.