State auditor’s report questions $43,403 in county grant monies

By Charlie Bermant
Peninsula Daily News

PORT TOWNSEND — A finding by the State Auditor’s Office released Monday states that Jefferson County lacked internal controls to ensure compliance with federal grant requirements, resulting in questioned costs totaling $43,403.

Jefferson County Auditor Donna Eldridge said the finding resulted from the county’s categorization of the funds as part of a law enforcement participation program with Clallam County when it was actually grant money.

The $43,403 discrepancy is substantially less than a report from the State Auditor’s Office last month that concluded that the city of Port Townsend is at risk of not being able to meet financial obligations at current service levels, which could result in the city needing to obtain bank loans or find other sources of funding.

The report from the office of State Auditor Brian Sonntag carries no enforcement or penalties and is meant to advise county and city governments.

In Monday’s report on Jefferson County government, the grants in question came from the U.S. Department of Justice through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, and were intended to support criminal justice and crime fighting efforts.

According to the audit report, the county charged $5,060 more in vehicle and equipment expenditures than the $10,000 allowed by the grant and was improperly reimbursed for $38,343 in salary costs.

The two sources mentioned in the audit report are the Assistance to Rural Law Enforcement and Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance grants.

According to the report, the Sheriff’s Office did not assign $50,000 in payroll costs to time sheets, which meant the costs were not recorded in the county’s accounting system.

Because the expenditures were not recorded, the county auditor did not report it on the required Schedule of Expenditures of Federal Awards form, and payroll costs were overcharged.

In a written response that is part of the state audit report, Eldridge said the $5,060 indicated as an overage was in error because the overcharge was corrected in billing documents submitted to the Justice Department.

Eldridge said the grant money was administered by Clallam County and that her staff wasn’t aware of its status.

The report also recommended that the county establish internal controls to improve tracking and reconciling of federal grant funds into the county’s accounting system.

In response, a meeting of about 10 county staffers involved in the grant process plan to meet for the first time Wednesday to develop policy guidelines for grant solicitations.

In a memo, Eldridge said the purpose of the policy will be to ensure a consistent process when applying for, managing and billing for grants.

Eldridge hopes that the policy will be developed over the next two months and approved by the county commissioners by the beginning of 2012.

The report recommends that the county examine its procedures and work with a federal oversight agency to determine whether the questioned costs will require repayment.

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Jefferson County Reporter Charlie Bermant can be reached at 360-385-2335 or charlie.bermant@peninsuladailynews.com.

Last modified: November 07. 2011 10:42PM
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