Audit reveals financial irregularities
A recent audit of the Village of Waverly Justice Court has revealed several instances of missing funds, a lack of oversight of the court's accounting practices and a series of errors and irregularities in its financial records.
According to a report issued by the New York State Comptroller's Office, which performed the audit, money was not accounted for in 50 instances out of 120 tested transactions, totaling $2,805. The figure includes 39 discrepancies between the court, the state Department of Motor Vehicles and the Justice Court Fund that totaled $2,345, according to the report.
Auditors were unable to determine whether the funds were stolen or simply inaccurately recorded. "The court records were in such disarray that we were not able to identify the cause of this missing money," the audit report reads.
The court's justices did not ensure that court funds were properly tracked and accounted for, and a certified public accountant hired by the village board of trustees to review "agreed-upon procedures" did not detect or bring the problems, described in the audit report as "serious," to the board's attention, the report reads.
The audit, which reviewed records between June 1, 2010 and Feb. 24 of this year, was extended to March 27 to review outstanding violations, according to the audit report.
During that time period, justices did not clearly and consistently record the fine levied for moving violation tickets, often writing them illegibly and not in the designated space. "Five of the 15 moving violations tickets we reviewed did not have any fines written on them at all," the audit report states.
Clerks also failed to maintain accurate records, according to the report. Auditors found that nine examined tickets totaling at least $380 were not recorded in the court's accounting system, and six additional tickets were recorded for different amounts than reported, a difference of $520. In addition, the report states that 24 tickets totaling $1,315 were deleted without explanation.
Auditors also found that actual fines for moving and parking violations were often different than what clerks had recorded. Only one of six examined tickets matched the fine recorded, according to the report.
Justices also failed to ensure that court clerks consistently enforced unpaid tickets. Five of 16 reviewed tickets were not enforced, adding up to $664 in unpaid fines, the report reads.
Improper records regarding deposits were also kept, and the clerks' cashbook report frequently did not match bank deposit slips.
Money collected was not always deposited within 72 hours, as required; 21 out of 80 receipts tested were recorded after the 72-hour window, and some were not deposited until as many as 12 days after receipt, the report reads.
The audit report states that the justices and trustees provided little oversight of accounting practices. Monthly reviews of the finances were not required. Trustees contracted with a CPA to review agreed-upon procedures, but without an audit performed on the court, the CPA's review "did not address the true risks associated with the court," the report reads.
Recommendations included providing clerks with a clear description of job duties, ensuring the proper documentation and recording of levied fines, ensuring deposits are made in a timely fashion, making sure the fines paid match the fines levied, and enforcing unpaid tickets.
Auditors also suggested that court justices perform a monthly accountability analysis of the court's assets and liabilities and that village officials have court records audited, either by a CPA firm or by the board of trustees.
Justice Richard Koons addressed the recommendations in a Sept. 18 letter to the comptroller's office. Koons wrote that staff had since begun to clearly document levied fines in the proper place, made timely deposits and corrected issues with the accounting and reporting of tickets.
Koons wrote that he had also begun performing a spot check of fine amounts reported on the monthly report to ensure proper accountability.
As of Sept. 18, a decision regarding the court's CPA firm had yet to be made by trustees, Koons wrote. However, a letter submitted by village officials to the comptroller's office states that the board has reviewed the audit and plans to work with court staff to implement a corrective action plan, which must be prepared and submitted to the comptroller's office within 90 days.
Amanda Renko can be reached at (570) 888-9652; or email: firstname.lastname@example.org.