News Column

EDITORIAL: Let's solve a problem by not throwing a million at it

June 27, 2014

Moscow-Pullman Daily News, Moscow, Idaho

June 27--During its annual retreat this week, Whitman County Commissioners discussed ways to solve the financial reporting mess spotlighted by the State Auditors Office in its assessment of the county's 2012 finances.

The SAO's report identified problems with county workers' ability to reconcile bank statement accurately and promptly, communicate between departments and use the county's accounting software properly.

As a result the state was unable to express an opinion on the county's 2012 finances, which in turn led to the loss of the county's credit rating.

None of this is new.

Last year, the SAO identified similar issues with the 2011 audit: the county claimed technical issues were at fault and promised to get it fixed -- the same response it made this year.

In 2010, former county Finance Director Beverly Divine was removed from her position for failing to file accurate and timely audit information with the state, and in 2008 the SAO was also unable to express an opinion on the county's 2006 finances.

"This same condition occurred during the prior two audits, resulting in no opinion on the county's financial activities for 2004 and 2005," the 2008 SAO report said.

So, the commissioners are talking about paying between $70,000 and $100,000 to the Government Finance Officers Association, a non-profit Chicago group that tries to help county governments use best practices in all areas of government, to help them with the "condition."

The commissioners seem to be worried the GFOA might recommend they scrap their $1 million accounting software system, which has only been in place for a few years and apparently never has been used as it was meant to be.

That's got us a little worried, too.

Every new system is aggravating, at first. Why would departments or employees who fail to use the existing relatively new system properly do any better with a really new one?

Before that $1 million investment -- made just a few years ago -- is thrown out the window, the commissioners need to adopt some policies to hold accountable those departments and department heads who don't use the existing system properly.


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Source: Moscow-Pullman Daily News (ID)

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