County earns highest audit rating

Published 12:03 am Saturday, March 9, 2013

For the first time in nearly 14 years, the Covington County Commission had no findings in its audit.

The state examiners of public accounts released the commission’s 2010-2011 fiscal year audit Friday, which gave the county an “unqualified” opinion on the county’s finances and record keeping – the highest rating that can be earned.

County administrator Brenda Petty credits the prior administration – Lynn Sasser, David Ellis, Bragg Carter, Harold Elmore and Carl Turman – with achieving such a “phenomenal accomplishment.”

“I can’t say enough about how good it feels to receive an audit with no findings after so many years,” Petty said. “I applaud the prior administration on their willingness to make the right decisions – although not popular with many citizens – to pull the county out of the serious financial situations they faced. I would say to those five men, ‘A job well done.’”

Petty said it was in 1999 that the county last produced an audit without any findings. Audit findings are any error, exception, deviation or deficiency noted by an auditor as a result of an examination of audit evidence. Findings generally relate to compliance with policies, procedures and legal requirements; adequacy and effectiveness of controls, and/or efficiency and effectiveness of administration.

“Every audit from FY1999 through FY2010 included at least one finding, and some audits included multiple findings,” Petty said. “The most repetitive finding during those years was deficit fund balances, which means the commission spent more money than it received, or had available, during a fiscal year.”

Petty said when the prior administration took office in November 2008, they immediately went to work to improve the county finances, and this audit proves they accomplished their goal.

By leasing the Covington Center Arena, assigning the Point A Park agreement to private individuals and moving to the district system, the then-commission “relieved the general fund of a huge financial burden,” Petty said. The cost of operating four individual shops was eliminated when the commission voted to change the method of maintaining county roads from a district system to a “unit” system under the direction of the county engineer.

Petty said one specific finding in recent audits was use of restricted funds – specifically loans to the gasoline tax fund from Federal Emergency Management Agency advances received for 2009 flood damages.

“The FEMA money wasn’t misused or misspent,” Petty said. “It just wasn’t supposed to be used until all the work on a damage site was complete. With the extensive cost of materials to repair the damages, the regular revenue received by the gasoline tax fund wasn’t adequate; therefore, loans were made and documented on the county books to assure that all such loans were auditable. She said during FY11, the gasoline tax fund repaid the FEMA Fund all outstanding debts, giving the county its first audit without findings in nearly 14 years.