State Audits Find Smaller Communities Often Lack Fiscal Controls - News and Weather For The Quad Cities -

State Audits Find Smaller Communities Often Lack Fiscal Controls

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Even after the Rita Crundwell story made national headlines, state auditors regularly find cities and counties with loose financial controls.

Iowa is no exception.

Smaller cities and counties often lack the resources needed to have full staffs with oversight over each other.

Muscatine County just had its annual audit published.

The state recommends two departments tighten up their financial controls.

The Muscatine County Attorney's office as well as the County Highway Department, there weren't enough employees to properly split up the financial oversight duties. The same person who gets the mail would also be responsible for depositing the checks, and the state wants to see that split up among as many people as possible.

Iowa Deputy Auditor Warren Jenkins says, "It became more evident than it had before but it has always been a problem in small communities."

Jenkins says the recession brought the plight of smaller communities to center stage. Cutbacks forced fewer employees to do more work, often without a layer of oversight.

"We have seen a significant increase in the number of embezzlement audits that we do, and part of that is because people are asking more questions," says Jenkins.

Muscatine County's latest audit found no wrongdoing. The auditor still recommends the county do more to split up financial duties in the attorney and highway department offices.

"Do we have offices that are shorthanded of course we do, they could all probably use some extra hours in their offices," says County District Four Democratic Supervisor Kas Kelly.

She says the county budget lacks room for extra workers. Both departments offered solutions of their own to the auditor. The attorney will have two office clerks open the mail and the highway department will have another worker perform random spot checks.

"I'm very, very confident in our staff, we have a lot of checks and balances that are in place," says Kelly.

The State Auditor offers one recommendation for communities that are smaller, it says elected officials may be used to fill some of those staffing shortages.

The state audit accepted the County's solution to its potential lack of oversight in the attorney and highway departments.

The Muscatine County Board of Supervisors also reviews every bill the county receives before writing any checks to pay them.