State audit finds problems in Oak Harbor

"A recently-released state audit of Oak Harbor states that the city hasn't been tracking the budget for a federal COPS grant program very well.Also, the report says that the city is leaving a door open to possible theft by not keeping complete records of city property and not doing regular inventory counts.But a fix is underway.The report lists the problem with the grant budget as an official finding, but cites the city property issue as an ongoing problem. The problem has been on state auditor report for the last seven years.The report says there were extensive accounting errors in the city's quarterly reports for the federal COPS program.Plus, the employee responsible for tracking the program did not understand the grant requirements and the internal controls over the program are weak. The COPS grants come from a federal program which pays a percentage of police officers' salaries for a certain number of years. The city must match the grant money with dollars from the city's general fund.City Interim City Supervisor Doug Merriman, who doubles as the city's finance director, says the problems the auditor identifies all result from a single federal grant form that is difficult to fill out.He said he's getting some help from the state auditor's office to solve the problem. The office is sending someone to Oak Harbor to give employees a lesson on filling out the form. The reports states that the federal government was not over or under-billed as a result of record-keeping errors since the federal agency calls monthly and asks for the correct payment.In the response published in the report, the city also points out that there really hasn't been any damages resulting from the procedures - or lack of - but agrees to streamline the process and educating staff. The solution, the city's response states, is to consolidate a number of grant functions, an increased emphasis and on educating staff on specific aspects of this particular grant, and will include increased monitoring and managerial review of the reporting process.On the older issue, the reports states that the city's failure to maintain complete property records and to perform periodic physical inventories increases the City's risk that equipment will be stolen or misused.Merriman said that the city does, in fact, have accurate records of all of its current equipment. But seven years ago the state started requiring cities to keep records of all fixed assets, past and present. Most difficult for the city, that includes costs of equipment.So that means that a city staff member has had to go back through a century of city records, list all the equipment and add the costs of everything the city has ever owned - or estimate the cost by adjusting for inflation. That takes a lot of time, yet Merriman said the process should finally be completed this year. With any luck. "

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