“The resolution to expand the services was to get the utility department up to speed because we had some transition there and needed someone with expertise to come in and get it going like it needs to be.” Melanie Bueche, jury president
The Pointe Coupee Parish Police Jury was cited in an audit released Monday for failing to properly monitor and address a more than $900,000 deficit its parish jail fund in 2012.
The audit, prepared by accounting firm Postlethwaite and Netterville, also says the Police Jury violated state law by failing to amend several accounts in the parish’s 2012 budget when revenue and expenses got out of kilter by at least 5 percent — and as much as 34.5 percent in one account.
The audit, made public Monday, also says revenue generated from the sale of scrap metal was not deposited into the parish’s bank accounts and some of the parish’s revenue was improperly invested in out-of-state banks.
The jury was also cited for not keeping an inventory of parish equipment, having unpaid customer utility accounts more than 90 days old and placing a part-time worker in a full-time position without going through the proper hiring procedures.
Jury President Melanie Bueche said Monday the parish has already, or is in the process of, addressing the audit’s findings.
“We take responsibility for the things that are not 100 percent, and we’ve been working to correct all of them,” Bueche said.
The audit was released nearly a week after the Police Jury decided to pay accounting firm Faulk and Winkler an additional $42,000 annually to provide a more thorough review of the parish’s cash disbursements, payroll processing, and utilities oversight for billing and customer collections.
The parish was already paying the firm $58,000 a year to provide monthly budget reviews and accounting oversight, but in a more limited capacity.
Bueche said the jury’s Oct. 8 decision to expand Faulk and Winkler’s role was not in response to the audit’s findings but to get immediate help in the parish’s accounting department.
“The resolution to expand the services was to get the utility department up to speed because we had some transition there and needed someone with expertise to come in and get it going like it needs to be,” she said.
According to the audit, the parish jail fund had a $933,208 deficit as of Dec. 31, 2012, and the Police Jury failed to monitor the fund and come up with a strategy to eliminate the shortfall.
Parish Administrator Jim Bello said operations at the parish jail are an annual challenge to fund and will continue to cause shortfall issues for the parish.
The parish shares the burden of funding the parish jail with the Pointe Coupee Parish Sheriff’s Office, Bello said.
“With only $200,000 in sales tax revenue dedicated to the running of the detention center, the Police Jury is faced with offsetting expenses by transferring an additional $200,000 or more annually from its general fund for this operation,” Bello said in an email Monday.
“Costs of operating a detention center here are no different than in other parishes or for the state.”
Bello said the Police Jury has already addressed the scrap metal issue in the beginning of 2012 by adopting a policy regarding how used parts will be sold and deposited in an established bank account.
Bello said the parish is also performing regular property inventory counts and intends to increase the frequency of those counts.
As for the unpaid customer utility bills, Bello said that’s not an unusual issue for a public entity.
“We have changed staffing and adopted new policies and are making a concerted effort to keep our billing address system updated,” Bello said.
Auditors also noted a 34.5 percent revenue shortfall in the parish’s general fund and a 6.1 percent revenue deficit in the parish’s drainage fund.
Revenues in the parish jail fund fell short by 8.7 percent and actual expenditures exceeded the projected spending by 5.8 percent, according to the audit report.
State budget law requires governing bodies to amend their budgets any time actual expenditures exceed projected budgeted amounts by 5 percent or more, or when actual revenues fall short of projected amounts by 5 percent or more.