By Dan Hust
LIBERTY State auditors have faulted Village of Liberty officials for insufficient internal controls over finances, including a $32,766 discrepancy.
Officials from the NYS Comptroller’s Office examined selected financial records in Liberty spanning the years 2008-2011, releasing the results of their audit this week.
In no case did the auditors accuse village officials of intentional wrongdoing, but they nevertheless found three areas of concern:
• “The mayor did not ensure that all adjustments to water and sewer accounts were appropriate and sufficiently supported,” they wrote.
The auditors found that the village’s clerk/treasurer and deputy clerk manually debited and credited adjustments to customers’ accounts and that the cumulative adjustments did not match the journal entries, creating a difference of $32,766.
Village officials could not account for the difference.
“Because of the lack of proper controls,” wrote the auditors, “we could not determine if village funds were missing.”
In a response included with the audit, Mayor Richard Winters acknowledged the weakness in the system, blaming it on the software, and promised to better reconcile the water and sewer accounts.
• The village board did not certify the list of unpaid taxes on an annual basis, said the auditors, despite state law requiring such.
“Although our testing did not identify any instances of error or fraud,” they wrote, “the potential for either or both to occur and go unnoticed is significant.”
They recommended the clerk/treasurer provide the board with a monthly statement on taxes receivable, which Mayor Winters agreed to do and to certify the amount of unpaid taxes each March.
He acknowledged auditors’ concern that one person is responsible for collecting and recording taxes but indicated the small staff size leaves the village with limited remedies.
• Auditors faulted the mayor for not monitoring the clerk/treasurer’s use of the mayor’s signature stamp for paying non-payroll-related expenses.
There was no check- or voucher-sequence log maintained, they added, and office personnel shared a single password into the accounting system, giving them full privileges including the ability to print checks with the clerk/treasurer’s signature on them.
They found no inappropriate expenditures, but “a significant risk exists that errors or irregularities may occur and remain undetected and uncorrected.”
Mayor Winters responded that better records will be kept, and he will personally sign all abstracts prior to the printing of checks. The board will also see a monthly check register, and a separate user log in system has already been established for the accounting program.