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Audit finds problems in Hale County

An audit of the financial statements of the Hale County Commission, from Oct. 1, 2001 to Sept. 30, 2002, has found numerous problems with financial reporting in commission meetings and the commission office.

The report was made by the Alabama Department of Examiners of Public Accounts.

Among the findings and recommendations listed are:

accounts receivables for the solid waste department were not reconciled on a monthly basis;

a review of invoices paid subsequent to Sept. 30, 2002 were not included in the commission’s accounts payable balance;

“numerous errors were made in recording operating transfers;”

“deposits for solid waste collections were not made timely;”

“payments were made without invoices or other supporting documentation;”

the purchase order system was not properly utilized;

“the commission did not pay bills in a timely manner.” This resulted in late charges. Also, revenues generated by the solid waste department were deposited in the General Fund, and funds were not available to pay expenses for the solid waste department;

“restricted funds were used for unallowable purposes;”

the commission did not distribute 50 percent of National Forestry Receipts to the Hale County Board of Education;

the commission did not always follow proper procedures in awarding bids including the purchase of patrol cars. “Bid files and minutes of meetings did not reflect all bids received.”

In addition, many bid documents were not available for review.

the commission has not formerly adopted a policy about performing work upon private property. Written contracts for such work were not completed, and further documentation of services performed and prices paid were not available.

In summary, the auditor reported that the primary government financial statements do not present fairly the financial position of Hale County.

Commission chairman Leland Avery as recently as last Thursday’s called meeting was asking that the commission establish a solid waste department that would handle accounts payables and billing – instead of the commission office. There was no action taken on that request.

Avery and other commissioners, notably Lois Fields, have argued in recent meetings over the lack of payment of past due bills. The chairman has even started picking up the commission office mail so he will not discover what bills were outstanding.

Fields on the other hand has said she wants evidence that vendors are sending bills in a timely manner.

Attempts to contact chairman Avery Tuesday to comment for this article were unsuccessful.