Summit County performs self-audit to gauge risk of fraud
Summit County officials recently completed a self-audit at the urging of Utah State Auditor John Dougall to gauge the county’s risk for financial fraud and determine whether public funds are being handled correctly.
Dougall’s office encouraged all 29 counties across the state to complete a financial fraud risk assessment in December as part of the self-audit. The assessment is used by the State Auditor’s office to evaluate the risk levels of counties and municipalities across the state, according to a county press release.
Summit County Manager Tom Fisher said the audit showed that the county’s risk level for financial fraud is very low. He said the results reinforce the findings of an external audit that is completed on an annual basis.
“With the movement of money, there is always a risk for fraud,” he said. “We annually have someone from outside of the county check our level of risk for those that might not be handling public funds the way we are supposed to, and the state auditor is responsible for looking across all entities in the state to do the same thing.”
A representative of Dougall’s office met with county staffers in early December to perform an informal assessment of the county’s handling of public monies. The results of the findings will be presented to the County Council on Wednesday.
County staffers handle millions of dollars of revenue that are received from property and sales taxes, as well as fees that are collected across the county in various departments. The county conducts payroll and performs wire transfers each year.
Fisher suspects that the report from Dougall will likely contain generalized statements about the results of the audits for all the counties across the state. But, he said, elected officials wanted to ensure that the public was made aware of the county’s risk in an effort to be transparent.
“We wanted to make sure the public knows specifically how we feel about our levels of risk,” he said. “We wanted to make sure that we provided full documentation and a full assessment of that fraud risk questionnaire and that we have that on the public record so there are no questions.”
Fisher assured that the county would have handled the audit the same way if the results showed a higher level of risk for financial fraud.
“A good example of that in this case is that it was identified in the questionnaire that the state auditor wanted counties to establish a fraud risk hotline that would be made available to the public and employees,” he said. “It is not statutory or required as part of general accounting practices, it’s just something the state auditor is encouraging us to establish so we have put that in place.”
Fisher said officials want the public to know how funds are being handled and if there are any corrections that need to be made.
“I would be just as transparent about that,” he said. “We want the public to know. We appreciate the collaboration with the state auditor’s office to make sure we are all doing our jobs correctly. It shows that local governments and the auditor can work in a non-adversarial environment to make sure public trust is kept and public funds are accounted for properly.”
County Council Chair Roger Armstrong said in the press release that the Council “believes strongly” that staff and elected officials should conduct business in an “ethical and transparent manner.”
“We have been pleased to see our county treasurer and county auditor regularly update and implement policies, procedures and controls that support ethics, transparency and accountability concerning the use of Summit County property and funds,” he stated. “We welcome the state auditor’s review and feedback concerning Summit County’s effectiveness in those areas.”
Meredith Reed was elected to a two-year term as chair of the Summit County Democratic Party and said she sees an opportunity to ride the so-called blue wave that saw a Democratic surge nationally and within the state.