Varying number of issues found in audits in surrounding area

Recent audits of local governments in and around Bartholomew County have turned up a varying number of issues related to financial reporting, according to records from the Indiana State Board of Accounts.

The audits, which looked at calendar year 2020, reported “material weaknesses” in financial reporting in Bartholomew, Brown, Decatur, Jennings and Johnson counties, as well as the city of Columbus.

However, Bartholomew County government was the only entity of that group where material weaknesses were also detected in its internal controls related to federal awards in 2020.

Jackson County was the only local government in the area where auditors did not detect any issues with financial procedures and internal controls for administering federal funds.

Audits for calendar year 2021 are not yet available for the city of Columbus or Brown, Decatur, Jackson, Jennings and Johnson counties.

Last year, an audit of the city of Columbus identified issues related to internal bank transfers between Columbus City Utilities’ bank accounts.

According to the audit, the utility divides credit card payments it collects from customers equally each month and deposits them into its wastewater operating account and its water operating account. However, the amount collected was not equally allocable to both accounts, and the utility failed to make an adjusting bank transfer to account for the difference, resulting in the wastewater operating account owing the water operating account $1.53 million.

In addition, bond proceeds from the 2020 sewage works refunding bonds and waterworks revenue bond were incorrectly deposited into the utilities’ bank accounts.

In response to the findings, the Columbus Clerk-Treasurer’s Office said the issues had been corrected and “will continue to closely monitor all accounts.” Columbus City Utilities said it would continue to work with Baker Tilly to “correct and resolve this matter.” The issue did not affect utility customers.

In Johnson County, officials added when they should have subtracted, leading to custodial funds being overstated by $23.6 million, according to a 2020 audit. Johnson County officials said they “concur with the finding” and will work with their consultant” to verify that there are no errors in their financial statements.

An audit of Brown County determined that officials there “had not established effective internal controls” to ensure they provided accurate information to state auditors, resulting in understating expenditures related to several programs, including understating COVID-19 relief fund expenditures by $517,866.

Brown County also did not have “a proper system of internal controls” over disbursements of healthcare benefits, the audit state. Payments made to the county’s third-party administer to process health insurance claims and administrative fees “did not have a documented review and approval process to ensure the health insurance claims processed were for actual employees of the county.”

An audit of Decatur County found similar issues with understating expenditures of COVID-19 relief funds and other programs, as well as issues with bank reconcilements and “cash shorts ranging from $282,584 to $580,701” during the second half of 2020.

In Jennings County, an audit found the officials understated or overstated expenditures in several federal programs, ranging from an understatement of $198,636 to an overstatement of $47,045, state records show.