Tag Archives: audit

Audit uncovers $21K theft in Jefferson County

News release from comptroller’s office
The Comptroller’s annual audit of Jefferson County government, released today, includes three findings, one of which describes a $21,752 theft from the Planning and Zoning Office.

Last month, former employee Rhonda Michelle Reece was indicted on one count of theft over $10,000, one count of theft over $1,000, and four counts of official misconduct.

Comptroller auditors were first alerted to this issue by officials from Jefferson County after a citizen received a past-due notice for his adequate facilities tax – a bill which the citizen could prove he had already paid.
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Auditors question merit pay plan for state employees

There is major disagreement between state auditors and top Human Resources Department officials about Gov. Bill Haslam’s plan to eliminate across-the-board pay raises for 40,000-plus executive-branch employees and replace them with a merit-pay system, reports Andy Sher.

A new performance audit by Comptroller Justin Wilson’s office questions whether enough managers and supervisors were adequately trained to ensure the new standards, employee performance plans and evaluations work objectively and fairly as promised.

Auditors also warned that “a number of weaknesses in the performance management model could affect the objectiveness and fairness of the process.”

Human Resources Commissioner Rebecca Hunter and department officials rejected many of the findings. A former Hamilton County government personnel chief, Hunter said auditors’ concerns about training are misplaced.

“We feel very confident that our learning initiatives are competent and effective,” Hunter told a joint House and Senate Government Operations Subcommittee during a Dec. 16 hearing on the audit.

Hunter later added, “I think our biggest challenge here was the timing of the audit was in the middle of our efforts to make the process better.”

…Pay for performance is a key provision in Haslam’s 2012 landmark Tennessee Excellence, Accountability, and Management (TEAM) Act.

TEAM rewrote decades-old civil service laws to promote Haslam’s vision of a better-trained, better-managed and high-performing workforce. The act rewards those who do well under a five-tier evaluation system, and makes it easier to fire poor performers.

Hunter and her top deputies describe a “massive culture change” now taking effect after more than three years of hard work. The audit lays out the sometimes painful details of significant challenges faced by the Human Resources officials who spearheaded training for managers and supervisors across 33 executive departments and agencies.

Among them was having only 14 facilitators in the department’s Strategic Learning Solutions Division tasked with training 8,500 executive branch managers and supervisors by July 31, 2015, as “raters” for the new process, auditors said in one finding.

Note: The full audit report is HERE.

Prison audit recommends changing TDOC policies on work schedules, assault reports

By Travis Loller, Associated Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — An audit of Tennessee prisons is recommending the Correction Department change the way it classifies assaults.

If adopted, the department will likely see a spike in prison violence, at least on paper.

That’s because currently an assault on staff where no one is injured is classified as “staff-inmate provocation,” which is considered a nonviolent offense.

Richard Stalder is one of the auditors for the American Correctional Association. Speaking at a Wednesday meeting of the Senate Corrections Subcommittee, Stalder explained the recommended change this way: “If I swing a baseball bat at your head and just barely miss you, it should be sanctioned the same way whether I hit you or not.”
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Comptroller: $229K stolen from public housing

News release from state comptroller’s office:
A special investigation by the Tennessee Comptroller’s Office has revealed that at least $228,980 was stolen from the South Pittsburg Housing Authority and the South Pittsburg Elderly Housing Authority over a four-year period.

Investigators found that two former employees are responsible for the vast majority of the misappropriation.

Former accounting director Jan Brooks used at least three schemes to steal at least $127,980 from the housing authorities. These schemes included making at least $100,368 in personal purchases on a housing authority credit card. These purchases included hotel stays in Las Vegas, New Orleans, and at a casino in Mississippi.
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Audit finds dead, prisoners, state employees drawing unemployment benefits

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Tennessee Department of Labor officials say they are continuing to collect millions of dollars of unemployment benefits that were improperly paid out.

This comes after a scathing audit by the Tennessee comptroller’s office that said prisoners, state employees and at least one dead person have been on the rolls of those receiving unemployment benefits in Tennessee, in spite of repeated warnings that the state was improperly paying out tens of millions of dollars in jobless claims.

The comptroller’s audit said the unemployment benefit system made overpayments of $98 million in the past six years. It estimated a backlog of payments could balloon that figure to $171 million.

Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development officials took issue with that estimate and other findings in the audit.

The state overpaid $165 million in the past six years but have been able to collect $71.5 million of it and continue to pursue the money.

“We’re really actively pursuing getting that overpayment balance down,” unemployment administrator Linda Davis said. She said the department had several tools to go after the money, including garnishing wages and seizing tax refunds.

The audit looked at whether several state agencies receiving federal money were in compliance during the 2013-2014 fiscal year. It was pointedly critical of the unemployment benefit system because the same problems had been noted in previous years. In 2013, former Labor Commissioner Karla Davis and two of her top administrators abruptly resigned before the release of an audit showing massive overpayments of unemployment benefits.

“To prevent further erosion of the public’s trust in the (unemployment insurance) program, management needs to aggressively implement full corrective actions to the numerous control and compliance deficiencies,” a portion of the audit read.

The audit also noted long delays and officials not randomly checking on whether people receiving benefits were complying with a state law that says they must verify at least three job searches a week.

State officials said they have increased response times to citizens and they are complying with the law because those receiving jobless benefits can either show they have tried to find work or that they have received services through a career center.

Note: Updates, expands and replaces prior post

Comptroller audit: PTO president steals $10,465

News release from state comptroller’s office:
A special investigation by the Tennessee Comptroller of the Treasury has found that Tara Scott, the former president of the Hilham Elementary School Parent-Teacher Organization, stole at least $10,465 from the PTO. This investigation was completed in conjunction with the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation.

During the period August 2012 through February 2014, Tara Scott failed to deposit concession cash collections totaling $5,520. The money was collected during volleyball and basketball games.

Ms. Scott told investigators she took collections home with her and placed them in a locked cash box under her bed. Ms. Scott said each time she retrieved the cash box in preparation for the next game, she noticed the box was empty. Ms. Scott claims the money was stolen again and again over a period of nearly two years. Tara Scott never alerted anyone to the missing funds, and she did not stop the repeated thefts.

Investigators also discovered that Tara Scott wrote PTO checks totaling $4,945 payable to herself or to “cash.” Ms. Scott admitted she used the proceeds for her personal benefit.

On February 2, 2015, Tara Scott and her husband, Lonnie Scott, were each indicted by the Overton County Grand Jury on one count of theft over $10,000.

“Parents play a vital role in their child’s education, and I commend honest parents who volunteer in Tennessee school groups,” said Comptroller Justin P. Wilson. “Unfortunately, there are people who will use their positions to steal money. Simple checks and balances can help prevent theft.”

To view the special investigation report online, go to: http://www.comptroller.tn.gov/ia/.

POST Commission not doing inspections of police training academies

A state Comptroller’s audit says the Peace Officers Standards and Training Commission has not inspected any of Tennessee’s law enforcement training academies for more than two years, reports the News Sentinel.

The POST Commission, which is the primary regulatory agency for the state’s law enforcers, did not darken the doorways of any of the 11 training academies in the state, including four in East Tennessee, in 2012 or 2013.

Officials confirmed Thursday POST has not conducted a required on-site inspection at the training facilities operated by the Knox County Sheriff’s Office and Knoxville Police Department since at least 2011.

In the audit, POST Executive Secretary Brian Grisham blamed “personnel losses and travel restrictions.” State law requires annual on-site visits to the academies, which provide the basic law enforcement training all law enforcers in Tennessee must receive to be POST-certified officers.

…”Without adequate compliance monitoring, the POST Commission is limited in its ability to ensure that law enforcement training academies are providing appropriate training and graduating qualified officers,” the audit stated.

The audit also revealed the problem is not new. The Comptroller’s Office made similar findings in a 2008 audit, and POST promised to beef up its efforts, saying it had boosted its staff.

“Management stated (in 2008) that … commission investigators would conduct annual on-site visits and that at least one extensive review would be performed every two to three years,” the 2014 audit stated. “Deficiencies, however, still exist.”

POST now says “additional responsibilities have put a strain on existing resources” and it wants to “modify the monitoring rule to allow for less frequent on-site visits,” the audit stated. The agency also is proposing a plan to recruit volunteers from law enforcement agencies to conduct the on-site visits.

KPD Chief David Rausch and KCSO Assistant Chief Deputy Bobby Spangler both said Thursday that although their training academies have not been inspected by POST for the past three years, they are not concerned with the level of training they afford or the work POST does.

State audit: Grundy County has lots of problems

News release from state comptroller’s office:
Grundy County officials need to correct numerous problems with their management and record-keeping practices, an audit by the Comptroller’s Division of Local Government Audit shows.

The audit, which was released today, contains 21 separate findings – that is, serious issues that need to be corrected.

The director of schools’ office and the highway superintendent’s office were responsible for eight findings each.

In the highway superintendent’s office, for example, auditors found deficiencies in purchasing procedures, employee travel and work performed for other governmental entities. The office also allowed an employee to use department funds to purchase fuel for her personal vehicle.

In the director of schools’ office, the federal projects and education capital projects funds had cash overdrafts and deficits in their unassigned fund balances. There also were problems with the office’s budget operations and its use of federal grant funds, which resulted in questionable expenditures.

In addition to the findings, auditors noted that Grundy County has no audit committee or centralized system of accounting, budgeting and purchasing.

“I am very concerned that Grundy County had so many findings in this audit,” Comptroller Justin P. Wilson said. “I’m particularly concerned because 10 of the findings were identified in previous audits, but local officials apparently didn’t take appropriate corrective action. If the local officials are serious about reducing the likelihood of fraud, waste or abuse of taxpayer money, then they will take the steps necessary to correct these problems.”

To view the audit online, go to: http://www.comptroller.tn.gov/la/.

Audit catches Gibson city official stealing town money

News release from state comptroller’s office:
The former city recorder in the small West Tennessee town of Gibson stole more than $24,000 and gave herself an unauthorized upgrade to her health insurance, the Comptroller’s Division of Investigations has found. Auditors from the Comptroller’s office worked in cooperation with agents from the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation on the case.

While working as city recorder, Shawnda West withheld at least $24,267 in city funds for her own personal use. Also, she upgraded her insurance coverage to include her dependents, even though the town’s board of mayor and aldermen had only approved coverage for her. The difference in the value of coverage was $1,583.

West was fired from her job with the city and faces criminal charges.

The Division of Investigations released a report on the case today, which is available online at http://www.comptroller.tn.gov/ia/.

The report also highlighted other flaws in Gibson’s money-handling and record-keeping procedures. Specifically, the report notes that West was given sole responsibility for collecting, receipting, recording, depositing and reconciling all city collections – which meant there was no one in a position to oversee her work and possibly detect the theft. Also, collections of city funds weren’t always promptly deposited in the bank and the city did not prepare daily reports on cash collections.

“Fraud, waste or abuse of public money simply cannot be tolerated,” Comptroller Justin P. Wilson said. “Even in small communities, it’s important to set up some checks and balances in money-handling procedures so no single individual is in a position to improperly take money without being detected. I am encouraged that Gibson city officials have indicated that they have taken steps to correct that problem.”

DHS Budget Director Fired After Paperwork Foulups

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — The Tennessee Department of Human Services has terminated its former budget coordinator after an audit found he failed to file reports to the federal government.
According to The Tennessean (http://tnne.ws/15R6QuU), the audit stated Adeniyi Bakare had problems filing documents online for millions of dollars’ worth of federally funded programs. Auditors said Bakare didn’t contact federal agencies to see why the errors occurred.
The newspaper said Bakare, whose employment ended July 5, couldn’t be contacted for comment. Officials said the failure to file reports was a major factor in his dismissal.
“We take the audit very seriously because it speaks to how we operate,” said Basil Dosunmu, DHS deputy commissioner of finance and administration. “We know we have a role in fiscal stewardship.”
Grants have not been revoked, but auditors noted that failing to account for them could result in forfeiting funds.

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