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Probate office audit report includes current and prior findings

By Fred Guarino

The Lowndes Signal

The Alabama Department of Examiners of Public Accounts released an audit report for the Office of Judge of Probate for Lowndes County for the period from March 1, 2014 through April 30, 2017 on Friday, Aug. 10 in which instances of noncompliance with state and local laws and regulations and other matters were found.

Outgoing Probate Judge John E. Hulett served during the examination period of the audit report that includes four current findings and recommendations as well as two unresolved prior findings and recommendations

Current findings:

  • 2017-001 relates to the failure to provide reports for deleted, changed or voided transactions. Recommendation: The judge of probate should comply with the provisions of the minimum accounting requirements relating to providing reports related to deleting, altering or voiding transactions.
  • 2017-002 relates to the failure to remit collections in a timely manner to the County Commission.

According to the report, “The judge of probate failed to ensure remittances were made in a timely manner during the examination period. Amounts collected for the period October 2016 through April 2017 which were due to the Lowndes County Commission were not remitted until May 2017.”

The recommendation: The judge of probate should make remittances as required by statute.

  • 2017-003 relates to the failure to ensure all funds are covered by the SAFE Program. Recommendation: The judge of probate should ensure compliance with SAFE.
  • 2017-004 relates to the failure to ensure the appropriate sales and use taxes were collected for boats.

According to the report, “The judge of probate made errors in the collection and distribution of sales and use taxes levied by the towns of Hayneville and Lowndesboro on the casual sales of boats.”

The recommendation: The judge of probate should properly collect and remit municipal casual sales taxes.

Unresolved prior findings

  • 2014-003 relates to failure to ensure adequate receipting and depositing controls were in compliance with the minimum accounting requirements prescribed by the chief examiner.

According to the report, “During the testing of deposits, several instances were noted in which the composition of money collected (cash and checks) did not agree with the composition of money deposited.

‘Additionally, instances were noted in which amounts deposited did not agree with daily collections recorded in the cashbook.

“Money received from the state of Alabama for driver’s license fees and recordation taxes from other counties were not receipted in the cashbook but were deposited, resulting in discrepancies between the bank account balance and the cashbook.

“Prior to the examination, an unannounced cash count was performed in the Office of Judge of probate. Each clerk had cash on hand that had not been receipted and the change fund had unidentified overages.”

The recommendation: The judge of probate should establish adequate internal controls over daily receipting and deposits.

  • 2010-001 relates to failure to properly maintain a cashbook and reconcile bank accounts properly.

According to the report, “A cashbook was maintained; however, the balances on hand were not identified, and the bank reconcilements for the regular account of the office were incomplete and inaccurate.”

Recommendation: The judge of probate should comply with the provisions of the minimum accounting requirements regarding the cashbook and the reconcilements of the bank accounts.

Also, according to the audit report, “There were errors in the distribution of collections that resulted in amounts due and overpaid. Amounts due include amounts at the examination ending date which should have previously been remitted to the proper agencies. These amounts result from errors in the distribution of collections, failure to collect all costs that have been levied by a particular agency, or from calculation errors in the distribution reports. Amounts overpaid include amounts remitted to an agency by the judge of probate in excess of amounts the agency was entitled to receive.

An exhibit in the report summarized the amounts due and overpaid by the judge of probate. Amounts due were settled at the conclusion of the examination. Refund petitions were furnished to the judge of probate for amounts overpaid.

According to the report, “The official was invited to an exit conference to discuss the results of the examination. Representing the Department of Examiners of Public Accounts was Teresa Dekle, audit manager and Bart Barrontine, examiner.

The Signal made efforts to reach out to Hulett for comment.