NewsTracker Transparency and Elections

No Competitive Bids for $34K in Van Buren Co.: State Audit

Van Buren County spent more than $34,000 in spending on food and custodial supplies for the county jail and police cameras for which the county failed to solicit competitive bids, state auditors have found.

State law requires competitive bids for purchases over $2,500, auditors wrote in their report, so that taxpayers get the best deal for the money. The review covered fiscal year 2013.

“The failure to solicit competitive bids could result in the department paying more than the most competitive price,” auditors wrote.

Auditors also cited the lack of a paper trail for $3,000 in spending on undercover drug operations in the sheriff’s department and said it had shared its findings with the district attorney.

The county said in its response to the auditors’ findings that it has procedures to make spending of the drug fund money more accountable.

Last year, auditors found similar oversight problems with the drug control money: financial reports that failed to include $7,370, a lack of documentation of cash handled by undercover officers, and missing signatures on paperwork tracking payments to informants. The paperwork should be signed by the informant, the officer making the payment, and a second officer as a witness to the payment, according to auditors in that 2012 review. Van Buren County’s forms lacked signatures from the informants or a second officer as witness.

In a review of Clay County’s finances, auditors said the county commission had approved spending $23,000 for public works beyond estimated funding.

The county also lacks a formal purchase order system, auditors found.

County officials said financial difficulties prevent them from setting up a purchase order system, and that they are making their current purchasing process work “to the best of our ability.”

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Van Buren Financial Records In Disarray

Van Buren County has had trouble balancing its checkbook.

That’s essentially one of the conclusions of a critical state audit of the county’s finances in 2010, which found discrepancies in different financial records and a failure to reconcile general ledger cash with other accounts. The county’s financial statements “do not present fairly” the county’s financial position, auditors with the state Comptroller’s Office wrote.

Invoices, checks and other records were in such disarray that auditors could not calculate the county’s liabilities at the close of the fiscal year.

And auditors “discovered checks payable to the county dating as far back as 2008 for various purposes that had not been deposited with the county trustee.”

In its response to the audit, county officials said that they had made “the best attempt possible” to reconcile accounts, and that an outside consultant had been used to correct the problems.

The audit uncovered deficiencies in the county’s purchasing procedures, in the handling of a state grant for litter cleanup, and in tracking of personnel leave time.