October 2017 Commission Report

Commission meeting
Light month for spending – equipment for Animal Shelter approved
In a rare change of pace, none of your hard earned tax money was spent this month.  The only budget increase was a use of Animal Shelter donation monies to purchase kennels to house cats.

Grant process remains dysfunctional
The Blount County Commission is habitually asked to approve grant worksheets, which are requests to apply for grants, after grant deadlines have passed.  There were three grant worksheets and all three deadlines had already passed.  The grants include state funds to purchase bullet proof benches for Juvenile Court, equipment for used oil collection and equipment for recycling at the new convenience center.

The Juvenile Court security grant application was provided with the worksheet.  The recycling equipment grants were not included with the worksheets.

Internal Control Policy approved
The commission approved an Internal Control Policy for Blount County government.  You can read the policy here.

The policy lacks specifics on maintaining internal controls because the policy is based on principles for standards.  The preface explains this:

“This policy summarizes internal controls based on standards for establishing internal controls published in September 2014 by the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) in Standards for Internal Controls in the Federal Government (Green Book) and the Internal Control Manual for Local Governmental Entities and Other Audited Entities in Tennessee (the “Internal Control Manual”). Establishing and maintaining a system of internal controls is required by federal and state law.

This policy is based on principles as opposed to providing a detailed method of implementing internal controls because the GAO Green Book is principles based.”

Page 5 of the policy says, “Management reviews all new grant applications and grant agreements to identify potential risks due to changing grant requirements or other circumstances.”  Often the commission only receives a grant worksheet, when it approves a request to apply for a grant.  If management is identifying potential risks, the commission isn’t receiving a memo identifying or explaining potential risks.  It’s possible that grants with potential risks are being identified and aren’t being brought to the commission.  After reading this, I think it would be helpful for a statement of potential risks be included with a grant worksheet.

Page 6 of the policy says, “Management insures that separation of duties is observed; proper reporting and reconciliations are adopted; proper authorizations are received.”  There have been some issues with separation of powers and proper authorizations.  Read this and this.  What happens when the separation of powers and proper authorizations involves management?

Page 6 of the policy says, “Management requires third party service organizations to provide a Service Organization Control (SOC) report as a method of holding them accountable for their internal control systems.”  I’ve asked the finance director questions related to this.  If/when I receive answers, I may write further on this.

Page 7 of the policy says, “The information systems software, which is fully documented and includes backup and recovery processes, is approved by the Information Technology Committee.”  I’d like to see the IT Committee records showing that the IT Committee approved an information systems software.  Readers of this website may recall that I serve on the IT Committee and that I’ve written more than once that I don’t understand why the county has an IT Committee since it usually doesn’t do anything.  Many of the important IT decisions are made without input and approval from the IT Committee.

Page 8 of the policy says, “The Audit Committee has established a process for employees, taxpayers, and citizens to report suspected fraudulent, illegal, wasteful, or improper activity confidentially to the Audit Committee.”  The Audit Committee page on the county’s website contains no contact information for the members of the committee and there is nothing there explaining how to report anything to the Audit Committee.

Page 9 of the policy contains only the word Appendix at the top and is otherwise blank.  Page 1 of the policy says, “See Appendix for a complete list of all boards and committees.”

Much of this policy sounds good but I have to wonder if it is worth the paper it is written considering everything that I’ve just explained.

Up next:
It’s time to consider reforming the grant worksheet approval process.  Suggestions for reform are welcomed.

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