Audit unveils theft from Observation Knob

J. H. Osborne • Mar 15, 2013 at 12:11 PM

BLOUNTVILLE — A state audit of Sullivan County’s finances has made public the theft of funds from Observation Knob Park last year, as well as “accounting deficiencies” at Sullivan County Emergency Medical Service, during the budget year that ended June 30, 2012.

The audit, provided to county officials earlier, became public Thursday.

Both Observation Knob Park and EMS — referred to as “the ambulance service department” in the state audit — fall under the office of County Mayor Steve Godsey.

The audit also recommends, strongly, that to significantly improve accountability and the quality of services provided to county residents, Sullivan County should adopt a central system of accounting and budgeting for all departments — and establish an audit committee.

There were six “findings”:

•The Ambulance Service Department had accounting deficiencies (the audit notes Sullivan County Regional Health Department Director Gary Mayes “concurs with the audit finding” and responded that beginning July 1, 2012, “new leadership and staff have implemented reconciliation processes” and “plans are in place to have a systematic audit for reconciliation and claims coding.” Mayes has been providing day-to-day management of EMS in the absence of a full-time EMS director.).

•Observation Knob Park funds were stolen.

•The Observation Knob Park Office had deficiencies in accounts receivable.

•The School Department had deficiencies in the use of Federal Child Nutrition Program Funds (the audit notes corrective action completed).

•Accounting software did not identify the user who processed each transaction in the office of Trustee (the audit notes the issue has since been corrected).

•Accounting software did not identify the user who processed each transaction in the offices of circuit and general sessions courts clerk, and the clerk and master (the audit notes the issue has since been corrected).

According to the audit, “internal control deficiencies” provided the opportunity for the theft of funds from Observation Knob Park’s office in July 2011. An employee discovered $58 was missing that day and the Comptroller’s office later investigated but due to the lack of internal controls was unable to determine who might have taken the money. The money was locked in a drawer, the key to which was placed inside an adjacent drawer by the first employee. Another employee and a day worker — someone fulfilling court-ordered community service — had access to the office when the money went missing.

According to the audit, the deficiencies in accounts receivable at Observation Knob Park “resulted from a lack of management oversight.”

“The office should take steps to ensure that computer software is capable of generating an accounts receivable report,” the audit recommendation reads for this finding. “Detailed accounts listings should be reconciled with accounts receivable controls to ensure payments have been properly recorded and that any errors discovered have been corrected timely.”

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