published Thursday, December 29th, 2011

Bradley County audit panel wants bigger role

By Paul Leach, Correspondent

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CLEVELAND, Tenn. -- State auditors gave Bradley County a good financial report for 2010-11 and the county's Audit Committee says it wants to help that trend.

On Wednesday, the committee applauded the county's financial practices in a meeting with Bradley County Director of Finances Lynn Burns but expressed a desire to play a larger role in the financial reporting process.

"I think what it boils down to is we as an audit committee want to serve and want to help," said David Peterson, chairman of the committee. "How do we find a better way of getting engaged?"

Committee members agreed that county officials would need to believe their efforts added value to the annual financial reckoning and its impact on departmental accounting.

The committee could assist county departments by participating in exit interviews with state auditors, Peterson suggested. The matter was a "sore subject" with him, he said, after he essentially was ignored by a state auditor after saying he wanted "to be a part of the process."

Committee member Kelvin Bishop said they also could assist departments in formulating responses to problems cited in the annual state audit.

The 2010-11 financial report was a "clean audit," said Burns, who discussed its findings on compliance and internal controls, including a violation of the county's credit card policy by the Emergency Management Department.

The audit states that the department spent $15,755 for hardware, communication equipment, electronics, office supplies, meals and utility payments, but some charges lacked proper documentation. The county's credit card policy states that such purchases should be used mainly for out-of-town travel expenses.

"Part of the problem that we had with this had to do with the April 27 tornadoes," Burns said. "They had a lot of emergency situations and they didn't use the card for things that looked like typical travel."

As a corrective action, he said, the department conducted training with emergency staff members regarding the policies, especially in regard to documentation.

Burns and the audit committee also discussed problems with the audit's recommendation that the county centralize the accounting, budgeting and purchasing functions.

Such reorganization would cost the county, said Burns, who added that each elected official -- whether the county mayor, the director of schools or the road superintendent -- still will be allowed to have a finance administrator.

Paul Leach is based in Cleveland. Email him at paul.leach.press@gmail.com.

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