Internal auditor good idea here

By Steve Estes

District Three County Commissioner Heather Carruthers had an excellent idea Wednesday when she suggested that the county look into hiring an independent internal auditor.

That auditor supposedly would be charged with keeping track of county equipment and auditing revenue streams to try and keep the county off the front pages after the iPhone/iPad scandal of recent months and the theft of landfill fees by a county employee in the Upper Keys of recent weeks.

County staff is currently in the middle of an equipment audit by the Clerk of Courts office, the elected auditor of county finances, and thus far the results have been mixed.

Auditors have found some missing pieces of equipment, but the discrepancies appear to be more those of faulty record keeping than any dishonesty amongst employees.

Some computer equipment hasn’t been accounted for, but early indications are that the equipment was aged and was disposed of by technical services, or the department with responsibility, and the proper paperwork wasn’t filed.

Carruthers’ suggestion of an internal auditor would, we hope, alleviate such situations because we presume that the auditor would be both the first and last stop for all equipment inventory paperwork. And if it came up missing after that, we would expect a full-blown hunt for the equipment, or the person responsible for the equipment.

The auditor would also be a good liaison between the county and the clerk’s office, the latter of which as an elected official is the final stop for all accounting procedures, both for money and for equipment, used by the various departments of county government.

So what Carruthers suggests would put two sets of eyes on financial dealings and equipment tracking within the county government.

And if that doesn’t stop the shenanigans we have witnessed in the last few months, costing the taxpayer tens of thousands in lost equipment and fees, then a thorough housecleaning of county staff might well be in order.

The individual division directors and their supervisors are right now the final line of defense between the taxpayer dollar and any staff chicanery. With a trimming of the directors from nine to four and a constant reshuffling of personnel to different areas of responsibility, an entity as vast county government is going to lose track of a few things.

Very few of us fail to understand that aspect. But we also know that even the best manager can only supervise so many people until they are overwhelmed by the oversight responsibilities. Coupe that with the fact that most of our directors are also working members of the staff, and losing track of a few things becomes even more understandable.

And quite frankly, any employee tends to trust other people they work with just by virtue of the positions they hold.

That’s an understandable human reaction.

So for there to be effective oversight, we do need an independent set of eyes to raise red flags when something seems amiss. And we don’t care if that independent set of eyes raises dozens of false flags en route to safeguarding county taxpayer dollars.

There are open positions inside county government that are not filled, and while they are valuable positions within their division or department, they probably aren’t as valuable as this auditor position would be in the long-term fiscal health of Monroe County government.

Our elected leadership needs to get behind this proposal and see to it that our upper level management staff finds a way to afford what has become a needed extra slot in county government.

And once we get the position established, the elected leadership needs to find a way to make sure that the independent set of eyes doesn’t become dependent on reviews and endorsements from other staff members to hold on to the job.

Let’s work toward a truly independent position inside county government that is designed to do nothing more than make sure our valuable tax dollars go where they are supposed to, when they are supposed to and how they are supposed to.

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