Amsterdam audit targets controller’s procedures
AMSTERDAM A review of the city’s 2008-2009 financial procedures by an independent auditor pointed to several procedures within the city Controller’s Office that needed updating.
The yearly review, conducted by certified public accountant Richard Dinolfo of Queensbury, pointed to outdated procedures in collecting money that, if updated, could have prevented an alleged larceny that was discovered this year.
In April, city employee Barbara Sala, a senior account clerk, was charged with grand larceny for allegedly stealing money collected from City Hall.
According to City Controller Heather Reynicke, there was never a written procedure for how to collect cash and document the collection in the city’s computer system. She has since created a written procedure that she said is “more detail-specific,” and the city has enhanced its software system to avoid the manipulation of data which allowed the theft to go unnoticed for years. The potential theft at City Hall was first noticed by Reynicke in January, and Sala was suspended with pay.
The audit report also pointed out inaccuracies in the amount of unpaid real property taxes vs. the list of unpaid real property tax accounts, Reynicke said. That is because when her office generates or updates an account, the city’s software system doesn’t recognize it. Reynicke said she is working with the city’s software provider, which is currently Montgomery County, to rectify the situation.
Reynicke for years has been recommending that the city update its computer system in the Controller’s Office. “It would allow a fresh start for everything and be able to correct a lot of issues that have been pointed out in years past,” she said.
The new system would require an initial investment of $150,000 and $15,000 in yearly maintenance. Currently the city pays $45,000 per year in maintenance costs for its system, Reynicke said.
The software system was on the city’s list of capital projects to fund this year, but was not funded due to the city’s financial constraints.
Alderwomen Julie Pierce, R-2nd Ward, and Gina DeRossi, R-3rd Ward, both said they had looked over the audit report but hadn’t digested it fully.
“We’re really all focused on the budget right now,” Pierce said.
City officials have until June 1 to adopt a budget.
DeRossi said she feels that Reynicke is addressing the problems pointed out in the report, however she would like to see evidence that her new procedures are working.
She said she would not be in favor of purchasing new software at this point given the city’s financial situation. “The software can get the job done,” she said. “There is always something out there that will do it better; given our economic climate and financial standing, it’s not something of critical importance.”
The report also pointed to problems the city has documenting state and federal grants. Reynicke said she has already implemented a procedure under which department heads must make her aware of any grants they receive.