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An examination by chief of audits James L. Pelletier of San Diego county's fixed assets has turned up a host of major flaws, including failure to adequately account for the fate of property marked for disposal, failing to document assets thrown away or scrapped, and duplicate payment of a vendor bill, all resulting in a potentially huge but unquantified loss to taxpayers.

Findings of the November 16 report were reached after interviews with property custodians, sampling of assets handled from 2006 through the present, and evaluation of the adequacy of internal financial controls, including the way in which a single county employee was allowed to handle cash.

"During audit fieldwork performed at the Sheriff’s Department," the report says, [auditors] identified a duplicate payment of an invoice processed at the Crime Lab Unit.

"Specifically, payment of an invoice totaling $7,977 was processed by the use of a procurement (p-card) card in January 2009 and by a County warrant in March 2009."

The audit notes that "Sheriff’s management was immediately alerted of this issue and obtained reimbursement from the vendor," but warns that in order for the county to avoid repeated overpayment gaffes, "Adequate invoice review should be conducted to ensure that invoices paid by p-card are not released for payment via County warrant."

Auditors also found that "Property Disposal does not have an adequate database to properly track and record assets from intake to final disposition. As a result, Property Disposal is unable to account for all assets received for disposal."

According to the findings, "Out of the 30 assets reviewed, 2 assets were located on site.

"However, Property Disposal was unable to verify the disposition or identify the location of 13 assets."

"Two of the 30 assets sampled were designated as material with no dollar value by Property Disposal staff and were discarded as trash.

"Disposition of assets designated as scrap or trash is not recorded in the asset tracking database. Therefore, Property Disposal could not provide adequate documentation to verify the disposition of these assets."

Another red flag, the auditors say: a single county employee is "responsible for controlling surplus property received, receiving cash for the sale of this property, reconciling daily cash collections, depositing cash collection into the bank, and accessing the safe."

Notes the audit: "Lack of segregation of duties could allow errors or irregularities to go undetected. In addition, it increases the risk for misappropriation of assets."

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