JANUARY 13, 1997
by Jeff Switzer
WOODINVILLE--Failure to deposit funds in a timely manner, lack of adequate controls over purchasing, and no documentation for several of the former fire chief's credit card transactions were areas needing improvement, according to the State Auditor's report on the Fire District issued last week.
The district requested the audit period be extended through Aug. 31, 1996, rather than the typical Jan. 1995 to Jan. 1996 period, thereby including the remainder of former Fire Chief Jim Davis' tenure before his resignation.
"During our audit of the district's 1995 and 1996 credit card expenditures, we noted several instances where the former fire chief's credit card purchases did not have adequate supporting documentation," the report reads. "Out of 20 transactions tested in 1995 and 1996, 12 transactions in the amount of $715.45 had no receipts attached, and seven transactions in the amount of $987.05 had credit slips showing totals instead of receipts showing detail."
"This situation occurred because the former fire chief circumvented internal controls over credit card use," the report said.
In response, the fire district felt that the credit card situation was no longer an issue because "current employees of the district will follow the procedure of providing receipts for credit card transactions."
Another discrepancy brought to light by the audit noted checks and cash were sent to the county treasurer only once every three weeks to a month.
"Among one of the late deposits was a check in the amount of $249,702 which was held for three weeks before being remitted to the county treasurer," the report said, adding that the district was not receiving the maximum investment earnings on the money.
It also said an informal written recommendation along these lines was made in the last audit, though it wasn't implemented. Accordingly, the district's administrative assistant has indicated this recommendation will be implemented immediately.
Internal control weaknesses regarding purchase orders, such as lack of consistency between invoices and purchase orders and absence of approximate costs for items, were also noted. Failure to follow proper bid procedures for uniforms was also pointed out.
Financial policies to rectify problems
"We're currently in the process of updating our financial policies to correct some of the deficiencies in the audit," said Fire Chief Steve Smith. "Our department welcomes these audits. The input makes us more efficient and accountable."
Smith added that while it was important to correct the problems, they were not severe discrepancies.
Fire Commissioner Don Leggett said the results of the audit represent an opportunity to improve the fire district's accountability to the taxpayer.
"The audit did point out that we had some loose ends in need of correcting, some things the Board wasn't aware of," Leggett said.
Updated financial policies made their way to the Board Jan. 6, but the issue was tabled due to the absence of Commissioner Don Eddy. They are expected to discuss the subject Jan. 21 at 6 p.m.