The city’s billing department has lacked good internal controls — something on which everyone involved seems to agree.
According to a recent audit, nearly 90 percent of transactions in the billing office come without all of the required documentation. Out of 100 receipts, the auditors couldn’t match 57 of them to corresponding deposit slips. Twenty-three of the receipts involved cash, but auditors stated that they couldn’t verify if any of them were ever deposited.
In other words, there is no evidence that the money was ever put into the bank. For all we know, the cash could have gone to a pizza fund or into someone’s pockets.
Just last year, an accountant in utilities was found guilty of making off with cash in the billing office. That should have been a wakeup call then about problems in the billing department.
Also, the auditors found that financial duties haven’t been segregated — such as those involving handling of cash and deposits. That’s a major no-no.
This problem goes all the way up the chain of command. Last year, the City Council, at Mayor Tony Marquez’s recommendation, appointed Sharon Caballero as city manager, interim finance director and interim city clerk.
The real problem here is that the manager also had the finance director’s position. In other words, the manager could have approved an expenditure and also written the check for it. Another big no-no (and one that we as a newspaper regrettably failed to grasp at the time).
City Manager Timothy Dodge seems to recognize this problem. The current finance director, Abran Romero, is leaving for another job, but Dodge won’t be taking that position on an interim basis. He said the city made a mistake in having the manager last year also act as finance director.
In general, Dodge appears to take an interest in finances, delving into the details. That’s a good thing. We hope he follows up and makes sure the billing office is following the auditor’s recommendations for better money management.