County Financial Watchdog

Guest CommentaryOctober 1, 2013 

There is a little known, but very important office in Madera County government that is supposed to be the watchdog over the county's money. This is your money. It is the office of auditor/controller. The controller part pays all of the county's bills, tracks all revenues received by the county and keeps the books for all financial transactions.

The auditor part is supposed to audit all of the other county departments to insure the integrity of their expenditures. This department is also charged with sending specific financial reports to the State of California to get its fair share of state money to support our county.

This department has been late in submitting required documents that has cost our county millions of dollars. How many millions? Just try to find out. County officials claim that $3 million in road funds are being delayed for last year with another $3 million delayed this year due to late-filed audits. Published reports state that the county had either lost or delayed $5.4 million in grants is past years due to late audits.

How much more did we lose? Not just a few months late but years late. The audit for the 2010 fiscal year was due in September 2011 — and was not completed until May 30, 2013, two and half years late.

Now the department is working on the 2011 audit when they should be working on the 2012 audit. Late again and more missed money. The county has had to lay off about 40% of it's workforce in the past four years due to declining revenues. No wonder.

The auditor part of the office of auditor/controller, as the name implies, is charged with internally auditing every other department in the county. So, how many audits have they performed in the last 10 years? None — no audits have been undertaken. How can this be when it's their job? Where is our watchdog?

This department manages the collections and expenditures for about 150 special districts. These are the districts formed to pay for your sewers, water and roads. You pay into these with your property tax payments. Do you know where that money is? Do you know what it is spent on? Do you know how much the county charges you to administer these funds? Why isn't this information available so you would know how your money is being spent? It's your money so shouldn't you get a report on how it's spent?

In the most recent outside audit (more than two years late) the auditors found that at least 10 accounts had not been reconciled and balances did not match the reported amounts. Cash did not balance by some $500,000. They identified 18 governmental trust funds holding $34.5 million that were incorrectly accounted for. The auditors found $520,000 of unrecorded bills. These were problems that the outside auditor found. What didn't they find?

This department is in charge of making sure your money is spent as it should be and that you get what you are entitled to. Do you think you are getting what you are paying for?

You get to vote for the person that runs this department. The auditor/controller is independent and answers only to you. The last elected auditor/controller quit. The next two were appointed. Next year you will again get to vote for a new auditor/controller.

Choose wisely. It's your money.

Todd Miller is a Certified Public Accountant and financial advisor with the office of Miller & White, a certified public accounting firm located in Oakhurst. The current county auditor / controller is Marcia Hall.

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