Legislative Auditor chides Marksville Water Dept. operations

Deposit records, open safe, no security camera among findings

While a recent utility system audit did not find evidence of any wrongdoing, Legislative Auditor Daryl Purpera did criticize the city of Marksville for not doing things exactly right.

The term Purpera used was “inadequate financial management.”

Mayor John Lemoine sent Purpera a written response assuring the auditor that “we are in the process of implementing all recommendations you have given us to put in place.”

Perhaps the most serious finding in the investigative audit was that the records of water meter and sewer deposits were different among the four sources reporting those deposits.

The general ledger as of January showed $200,148 balance for water and sewer deposits. The bank statement indicated $205,187 in deposits.

Of more concern is that the Utility System Report shows $364,727 in deposits while the index cards for deposits has a total of $570,042.

Purpera noted in a letter to city officials that his staff pulled 27 supposedly active water meter and sewer deposit index cards in the office. Four were inactive -- 14.8 percent -- and did not indicate the deposits had been refunded.

PURGING OLD CARDS

Lemoine said Marksville is “purging the account cards and doing away with the inactive and deposit refund accounts.”

Purpera said the city “has no written policies and procedures for the utility system water meter and sewer deposits, customer billings, collections, reconciliation of accounts, personnel job responsibilities and safeguarding of public property.”

He noted the three collection clerks “perform all functions related to the funds they collect, including counting their own cash drawer, making their own deposits, posting their own entries into the utility billing software and verifying their daily cash reports to the daily bank deposits, without any supervisory review.”

Lemoine said the employees are “reconciling each other’s counting of monies collected before deposits. Each employee is responsible for his or her assigned drawer and is not performing transactions or any type of financial business in other employee drawers.”

Another finding noted by the auditor was the lack of a security camera in the room with the safe, “even though all employees that collect utility payments have access to the safe.”

Purpera also said the safe was left open when his auditing team conducted site visits.

Lemoine said the city is “speaking with a security company to install a camera over the safe.”

‘NOT A CRIMINAL AUDIT’

Roger Harris, director of the Legislative Auditor’s Investigative Audits division, said this audit “deals with internal control issues and is not a criminal audit.”

He said his office “gets three to eight complaints a day, including weekends” and he does not recall the nature of the complaint that led his unit to conduct the audit.

“Sometimes the complaint is about suspected criminal activity and some complaints are just a matter of concern that they aren’t following proper procedures,” Harris said. “We usually refer the 'internal controls' issues to a CPA firm, but in this case, because of the state of the records, we didn’t know what we were dealing with.”

Harris said he believes four sources showing a different total for deposit balance is probably due to old deposits that have been refunded still being counted in the index cards and Utility System Report.

“City officials said they will address our recommendations and I believe they will,” Harris said.

However, his office will want to see the corrected deposit records to make sure that problem has been corrected.

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