State Auditor rough on county collector

By DAVID A. WILSON

Democrat Staff

The Missouri State Auditor's Office released an audit report on Moniteau County on July 8 which addressed several concerns, one of which involved the County Collector's Office.

"We always take the audit seriously," said Anita Groepper, County Clerk of the County Commission. "We want to know if there are problems. If they can give us guidance in making things more efficient, we welcome the input. The auditors come in every four years and check the same things in every county."

This year, the Collector's Office was particularly hard hit in the report. Presiding Commissioner Kenny Kunze, Groepper and County Collector Cheryl Duvall all commented that this special attention is believed to be due to the discovery of misappropriated funds in Schuyler County. In that county, the collector embezzled more than $500,000 during her tenure of more than 20 years in office. Kunze said a look at the audit reports of the counties indicate the issues were much the same in all Class 3 Missouri counties and all faced tough audits of the Collector's Office.

Groepper commented that the auditors will address most of the same things when the counties are audited every four years, with some special attention paid to something which has drawn special attention. As County Clerk of the County Commission, Groepper reviews and signs off on Collector reports.

The auditor's summary indicated problems were found with reporting requirements, property tax transactions, timeliness of recording receipts and problems with balancing funds out and funds in, as well as the monthly reconciliations of office records with bank statements. In some cases, balances had reportedly been adjusted to the bank statements without locating the actual errors determined.

The auditors stated that without accurate reporting all activity on the annual settlement, "there is less assurance collections have been handled and accounted for properly."

The report specifically pointed out that the initial report on the annual settlement for the year ended Feb. 28 showed a significant difference between reported distributions vs. collections.

After better understanding the required report and after correction of errors in calculation, data entry, errors in counting and reporting, and correction of misplaced electronic digits, the revised report was found to be in balance.

As far as the audit report on the collector and her office, Groepper said, "There was no money missing. This is about the Annual Report showing not only tax collections and disbursements, but other moneys received such as auctioneers licenses, duplicate paid tax receipts, interest, PILT payments and knowing where to log the amounts in on the Annual Report Collector's Settlement."

The Duvall responded that the office will make certain bank reconciliations are properly performed. "In addition, I will discontinue making unsupported adjustments to the cash balance."

"Adjustments and corrections have been made to procedures in the Collector's Office," Groepper said. "Some of the adjustments and reports needed will require programming changes to the current tax collection software. In the meantime, the Clerk and Collector have implemented additional speadsheets and taken steps to verify collections and disbursements."

An additional item in the auditor's report stated that, like nearly all small counties, the collector does not record receipts in the property tax computer system immediately on receipt. Instead paid receipts are used to enter the information at the end of the day.

The Collector's Office responded that another employee and more computers would be necessary to enter the information immediately. Although neither the funds nor counter space is available for that, the Collector's Office is continuing to work with the County Clerk and the County Commission to improve the speed and efficiency of the entry and recording system.

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