Grand County moves to establish more internal accounting controls
Ryan Summerlin July 31, 2014
County officials are moving to implement more comprehensive internal controls in the wake of a scandal that rocked the Grand County Building Department.
The Grand County Board of Commissioners approved a list of 15 directives and questions for consideration at their July 22 meeting.
The list is based on recommendations from accounting firm Alvarez & Marsal, which conducted a forensic accounting investigation following the discovery of $500,000 in misappropriated funds in the county’s building department.
Former county employee Brigid Irish has been charged in relation to the case.
Directives include establishing standard operating procedures for county departments, determining the feasibility of centralizing most payments at the county treasurer’s office, and regulating petty cash within departments.
“There are a few unknowns out there, but right now it seems that what has been suggested is very feasible by the end of the year,” said Lurline Underbrink Curran, Grand County manager.
County officials hope to be able to track money as it goes through county departments into county coffers.
A work group including the county manager, treasurer, finance director, and clerk and recorder assisted in making the list.
The list has been distributed to the county’s department heads, who will meet on Aug. 12 for a workshop to address the items on the list.
The county has already implemented some measures to address internal control issues.
County Treasurer Christina Whitmer has already eliminated the practice of cashing personal checks from employees with county funds.
Additional measures could include installing an ATM in the county’s administration building, installing panic buttons in the county treasurer’s office, and changing the public fee schedule to eliminate the deposit required for all building permits.
One of the county’s major overhauls will include updating software to help department heads monitor revenues and track cash, said Scott Berger, Grand County finance director.
Lack of oversight from the department head was one of the issues that led to money going missing from the building department, Berger said.
“What happened was the department head wasn’t looking at his revenue reports,” he said. “We would have seen that the volume activity in his department wasn’t being reflected in the amount of revenue that was shown.”
Previously, department heads had good internal controls regarding expenditures, Berger said. Now, the county needs to focus more on revenue.
“The department heads are going to be doing the accounting side of revenue just like they do for expenditures,” he said.
The county has used Quickbooks software in the past, and Berger said the training was already in place to make the transition to the new software easier.
“We’re trying not to throw too much at all of the department heads because they’re not accountants or CPAs,” Berger said. “What we’re trying to do is introduce internal controls to them and work through the first 14 items.”
County commissioners have also approved the hiring of another employee to assist Berger in implementing the new software.
“It’s a real affirmation of their commitment to getting this done,” Berger said.
During a special meeting on July 21, county commissioners determined that the cost of the new employee and software could be around $100,000.
Hank Shell can be reached at 970-887-3334 ext. 19610.