Walter Mencken noon, Jan. 24
Audit of County's Emergency Services Office Turns up Multimillion-Dollar Accounting Flaws
On the heels of that $54 million "hidden assets" trust fund scandal enveloping the California state parks system comes word that San Diego county's Office of Emergency Services has been inadequately tracking its own multi-million-dollar finances.
According to a report released late last month by the county's Office of Auditor and Controller, the emergency services department failed to provide information regarding a seven-figure trust fund to county auditors who conducted a so-called officers' transition audit.
The financial review had been automatically triggered by the replacement of emergency services director Ronald J. Lane by interim director Herman P. Reddick - who previously had been the office’s assistant director for five years - and his subsequent replacement by the department's new permanent director, Holly R. Crawford.
Lane is now the county's Deputy Chief Administrative Officer in charge of public safety, overseeing 7,000 employees and an annual budget of over $1.2 billion, according to the county’s website.
"The objective of the audits," according to the auditors' report dated June 29, "was to determine if there is reasonable assurance that the outgoing officer, Ronald J. Lane and the interim incoming officer, Herman P. Reddick, as well as the outgoing officer, Herman P. Reddick, and the incoming officer, Holly R. Crawford, took appropriate actions and filed required reports as of October 7, 2011 and November 18, 2011, respectively."
The result: auditors said they "identified significant errors in the fiscal reports," including the fact that "Trust Fund #49211 with a balance of $1,181,605 and Trust Fund #49214 with a balance of $37,471 were excluded from the reports."
In addition, "The Accounts Receivable report provided for November 2011 excluded Account #11003 with a total receivable of $2,681,407."
Emergency services staff, the audit said, explained the omissions by saying that their "knowledge and ability to prepare complete and accurate fiscal reports is limited due to the absence of key personnel. OES management also indicated that insufficient training may have contributed to the errors found."
The audit also noted that, out of the five fixed departmental assets that were sampled, two, a scanner worth $10,534.33 and a computer valued at $6,166.86, "could not be located."
On top of that "A Dell Power edge computer with accessories, listed at $7,846, and dated FY 03/04" also could not be found.
According to the auditor's report, "OES has not sufficiently monitored and reviewed the physical inventory process. The lack of adequate controls over minor equipment increases the risk of lost or misappropriated equipment going unnoticed."
In a June 26 response to the auditors' findings, Emergency Services director Crawford acknowledged the failures and explained that "During the time the transition audit took place, the department's lead financial staff was on maternity leave, one finance employee was on staff, and an employee from a different department was temporarily assisting OES with finance duties."
Regarding the missing computers and scanner, Crawford said, "two staff that had overseen and were familiar with the inventory and inventory management of the department had recently left the department prior to the audit, resulting in newly appointed staff attempting to provide auditors with explanations of historical equipment transfers and adjustments of which they were unfamiliar."
As a result of the report's findings, the county auditors have asked Crawford to provide quarterly updates regarding the implementation of their proposed remedies.
We have a call into Crawford for further details.