Pittsburgh auditors find weak financial oversight in animal control department [The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review]
(Pittsburgh Tribune-Review (PA) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) Oct. 08--Auditors uncovered a pattern of sloppy bookkeeping in Pittsburgh's Bureau of Animal Care & Control that could make the city vulnerable to theft, Controller Michael Lamb said Tuesday.
"These are some of the typical findings we are seeing citywide," Lamb said. "We're not talking about a huge amount, but it's still public money."
The audit focused on $5,896 in fees collected through 2012 for dog licenses and animal traps, pointing to missing receipts and checks that were not properly endorsed or deposited quickly.
City Council and the Intergovernmental Cooperation Authority, one of Pittsburgh's state-appointed financial overseers, share Lamb's concerns.
They say the city experienced enough instances of theft in the past eight months to warrant new accounting practices.
Police in March charged Terri Randolph, 49, of Bon Air with siphoning $17,000 from the police department's records room where she worked as a cashier. In February, federal authorities charged former police Chief Nate Harper with diverting $70,000 in city money to private bank accounts and spending $31,000 of it on himself.
The highly publicized Harper investigation prompted council President Darlene Harris to sponsor legislation requiring departments to have written policies for handling cash and to update accounting methods.
"We need to bring the city into the 21st century," she said.
The legislation is pending a cash management review on how city departments handle money funneled through the ICA.
Downtown accountant Gleason & Associates is performing the review and found similar problems as Lamb's auditors.
Lamb said Animal Control must minimize cash transactions by accepting credit or debit cards. Council last week urged Mayor Luke Ravenstahl's administration to create a policy that would permit all departments to accept cards.
Animal Control Director Gerald Akrie conceded the bureau should update its accounting system. However, he said many people don't have credit or debit cards with which to pay.
"I appreciate audits, and there always needs to be checks and balances, but is there ever going to be a system that's foolproof? We just need to do the best that we can," he said.
ICA Chairman Nick Varischetti said the audit is an example of what's wrong with the city's cash management: "There doesn't appear to be any malicious act at all, but it seems though it comes down to some basic business management tools."
Bob Bauder is a Trib Total Media staff writer. Reach him at 412-765-2312 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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