Recreation Concessions Seen Vulnerable To Abuse

January 02, 1991|By James M. Coram | James M. Coram,Staff writer

The county auditor has chided the Bureau of Recreation for leaving its concession operation vulnerable to misappropriation of money and inventory and for not letting the county executive and the County Council know how it sets program fees.

In her December audit of the bureau, Brenda S. Dean, acting on behalf of county auditor Ronald S. Weinstein, reported that "concession revenue could be misappropriated and records altered to prevent detection."

The biggest problem in a concession operation is employee theft, Dean said. "Therefore it is absolutely essential that certain internal controls be in place and strictly enforced to guard against this problem."

Concession revenue for the past fiscal year amounted to $150,000, with $44,000 coming from soda machines.

A "significant amount" of the department's concession operations manual "is not being followed," Dean said, and even if it were, the kinds of controls she wants still would not be in place.

For example, the inventory at concession stands is monitored, but actual usage -- especially the higher-priced menu items -- is not, Dean said. Thus, "there is no way of knowing if theft is occurring."

Dean wants the inventory of selected items to be monitored at each location and reconciled with cash register receipts. To accomplish this, the concession manual is to be modified accordingly and implemented "without delay."

Parks and Recreation director Jeffrey A. Bourne, whose department includes the Bureau of Recreation, said that he agrees with 99 percent of Dean's 41 recommendations. In fact, he said, about 30 of them were "self-generated."

"A number of the recommendations were already being developed," Bourne said, "and we invited (the auditor) to examine them and help refine them. We were as concerned as they were" that the best possible procedures be implemented. Bourne expects the concession manual, for example, to be completed and distributed to all recreation employees by May.

A recommendation calling for two people in the concessions booth at all times would be "impossible for us to follow" and still keep the operation self-sustaining without raising food costs dramatically, Bourne said.

The county auditor also criticized the recreation department for setting individual program fees without approval of either the county executive or the County Council.

The criteria for making a decision about whether a program is to be wholly financed by general tax revenue, fully financed by participants or paid for by some combination of the two, is "known only by those involved"and has never been written down, Dean said.

It is the high demandyear-round for sports, educational and travel programs for groups ranging from toddlers to senior citizens that makes it necessary for the recreation department to charge supplemental fees, Dean said.

However, since no program policy has ever been written down, "it is notpossible (for the executive and the council) to obtain a clear picture" of what needs to be expanded or curtailed, Dean said. She called on the department to develop a procedures manual "as soon as possible" to remedy the situation.

County Administrator Buddy Roogow said such a manual would be in force by May and would "include the philosophy and procedure by which self-sustaining and tax-based recreation programs are funded."

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