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Fort Gay finance troubles raise several concerns

Oct. 03, 2012 @ 12:00 AM

The budget for the Town of Fort Gay might be small compared with those of other cities and local governments, but recent audits show the potential for problems is just as large.

The state Auditor's Office reviewed the period between July 2008 and June 2010 and found a disturbing pattern of poor recordkeeping and sub-par accounting practices. But the shortcomings were more than procedural.

The Auditor's Office noted instances of unpaid withholding taxes, unapproved purchases and unrevealed losses in the town water and sewer operation. The state has provided Wayne County Prosecutor Tom Plymale's office with a special report on the audits, and while there are no current allegations of official wrongdoing, officials promise further investigation.

For the public, those questions include not only how the mismanagement occurred, but also how it went undetected for so long.

Moreover, the audit points out an issue that should be of concern for all small governments or non-profits. Without adequate financial training and structure, even the most well-intentioned organization can run into problems. The reports note a lack of segregation of duties and poor controls.

"Employees and management did not possess the requisite amount of knowledge or experience necessary to prevent, detect and correct a material misstatement in the financial statements," the audits state.

In addition to the ongoing investigation, current officials pledge to address the issues in the audit. Both efforts will be needed to restore public confidence and assure taxpayers that their funds are properly handled.

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