Texas County government was given a “poor rating” for its accounting procedures in an audit released last week by State Auditor Nicole Galloway. It’s the second consecutive review by auditors that resulted in the worst rating designation.
Galloway in her report said the poor rating indicates the county needs to significantly improve operations. It’s the second week in a row an institution has raised questions about the county’s accounting practices; last week Texas County Memorial Hospital said it was owed nearly $200,000 by the county.
Galloway’s comments mirrored those of her predecessor in 2014.
In her findings, Galloway highlighted 10 areas needing improvement:
•Details $6,800 in purchases by Collector-Treasurer Tammy Cantrell from the county’s Tax Maintenance Fund over a two and a half year period. Those included more than $3,500 for a cell phone plan and data overages. During the period reviewed, the majority of calls and texts made from the cell phone were for personal use, Galloway alleged. The collector-treasurer also purchased cable television service including movie channels for a breakroom used primarily by her and her staff, and grocery items like shot glasses, various snack items, fresh produce and bird seed using these funds, Galloway said.
“Taxpayers deserve transparency and accountability with every cent of their money,” Galloway said. “These are not just numbers on a page; they are real dollars from citizens who work hard for their paychecks. Even the appearance of questionable spending is unacceptable.”
Cantrell said the findings “could not be described as personal expenses in any way. I was in full compliance with uses allowed by law. Everything that is paid out of my offices goes in front of the Texas County Commission with their approval.” Cantrell added she “would never do anything intentionally to disappoint Texas County.” She urged any taxpayers to visit with her about the report or call her at 417-967-2580. “I am proud of the job my office does in collecting over $9 million tax dollars,” she said.
CONTROLS ANS PROCEDURES — Some changes were made in the month/year used for penalties, commissions and fee calculations in the property tax system for some taxpayers, resulting in non-assessment of penalties and fees. Cantrell said about 27,000 tax statements were sent; auditors found 14 where interest and penalties were waived on taxes that often had already been paid by an escrow account. Three involved office errors.
TAX SYSTEM CHANGES — An adequate review of additions and abatements made in the property tax system is not made by the county commission and clerk. Access to the system is not restricted. Galloway said refunds for overpayments are given and the assessed valuation was adjusted so the tax liability is offset.
FINANCIAL REPORTING — The annual county financial statement has not been submitted to the state auditor’s office for the last two years ending Dec. 31.
SHERIFF’S CONTROLS — Accounting duties are not segregated and adequate views of accounting and bank records are not performed. Additionally, inmate monies are not always refunded and the number of fuel cards has not been evaluated.
PUBLIC ADMINISTRATOR — Checks are held on behalf of some wards for extended periods of time and assets are sometimes not reported adequately to retain Medicaid eligibility. Annual settlements are sometimes not filed timely.
PROSECUTING ATTORNEY — Office does not generate or report monthly lists of unpaid bad checks or a report of unpaid court-ordered restitution.
RECORDER OF DEEDS — Accounting duties have not been segregated or independent reviews performed.
COUNTY CLERK — Monies are not deposited timely.
HABILITATION BOARD — Potential conflicts of interest are not monitored and board secretary compensation was not reported to IRS.