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December 29, 2014 - 2:04pm

Auditors tell Stafford Fire Department to improve its record keeping

posted by Howard B. Owens in Stafford, Stafford Fire Department.

The Stafford Fire Department board of directors needs to improve the department's record keeping and financial procedures, according to an audit completed by the state Comptroller's Office.

The audit found no evidence of missing funds, but said some of the lack of proper approval for expenditures could lead to unauthorized or improper expenditures.

The audit covered a 19-month period beginning with Jan. 1, 2013.

The department's revenue in 2013 was $550,130 and it spent $543,145.

While the department's treasurer maintained appropriate records and submitted monthly financial reports to the board, the treasurer did not properly receive all cash receipts.

For example, in 2014, the department collected $11,181 in cash from its annual carnival, but only $3,685 was turned over to the treasurer.

The department's president used the remaining $7,496 to pay for various carnival-related expenses, including a carnival ground cleaning service, food and supplies for a party for carnival workers and carnival set-up costs. 

"Although these expenses were supported by invoices and handwritten documents," the audit states, "the board was not given the opportunity to review and approve the payments before they were made."

The Ladies Auxiliary collected collected and deposited all of the department's banquet, hall and pavilion rental revenues into its own bank accounts, though there's no provision in the department's bylaws for this practice.

The Auxiliary collected $7,970 in banquet revenue, $2,305 for hall and pavilion rentals in 2013.

The auditors also reviewed 601 department checks with a total disbursement of $1.7 million from June 1, 2013 to May 31, 2014 and though financial activity was properly recorded and payments were supported, there were 131 transactions that were not properly reviewed by the board.

These expenditures totaled $394,897 and were made by the Classic Car Committee.

The bills, the board told auditors, were not always submitted prior to the appropriate board meeting.

The Comptroller's Office made four recommendations for changes, and President Dave Wallace, responded in writing with the board's plan of action to address the recommendations, and it is as follows:

  • The bylaws will be changed to require checks for payment of all bills and all cash to be returned to the treasurer. Itemized bills are required for all expenditures;
  • A contract will be drawn up with the Auxiliary for financial transactions;
  • Committees must present their bills to the board in a timely manner;
  • The department will hire an independent audit service.

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