Park concessions, auditor again at odds about accountability

August 09, 1992|By James M. Coram | James M. Coram,Staff Writer

The county auditor has again told the Parks and Recreation Department to plug the holes in its $150,000-a-year concession operation.

But Director Jeffrey A. Bourne has again said his staff is too small to implement all the recommendations.

A 10-page follow-up of a December 1990 audit was released Friday. In it, Brenda S. Dean, acting on behalf of county auditor Ronald S. Weinstein, reminded the department that "the biggest problem in a concession operation is employee theft."

While Ms. Dean does not allege theft, she says the department's lack of internal controls makes it impossible for her to account for a $4,610.41 difference between an Oct. 23, 1991 inventory balance and the actual inventory count on that day.

"Because of the number of individuals having access to this area, it would be impossible to determine why these records do not agree and who would be responsible for the shortages," she said.

The cure for the problem, Ms. Dean says, is to conduct a physical inventory more than once a year and immediately report any differences to management.

The parks department said it will comply with that request. But in a 3-page letter Mr. Bourne said a recommendation that the concession manager or his designate verify daily that deposit slips, cash register tapes, and daily cash reports have been reconciled is impossible.

"With staffing being what it is, and the necessity that this operation be self-sustaining, this operation cannot consistently offer the exact checks and balances that the county auditor has recommended," Mr. Bourne said. "It has become physically impossible because of the size of the concession operation for the concession manager to visit each concession on a daily basis."

Mr. Bourne said that although the potential for theft is always present, "we are not convinced that we have a problem concerning theft with our employees."

There have never been discrepancies of more than $10 at any of the department's concession sites during any two-week period, Mr. Bourne said.

In response to another of the auditor's criticisms, Mr. Bourne said it is not in the best interest of his department to state a formal policy or philosophy because that policy "is forced to be changed regularly by the budget situation."

Departmental philosophy regarding revenues, fees and charges has already changed twice since December 1990, he said. "We have gone from subsidizing programs on a percentage basis based by age group to an almost completely self-sustaining basis, except for senior, therapeutic, and special event programs."

The auditor said in his report that the way concession revenue is handled is "totally unacceptable," and added that he wanted the recommended remedies to be implemented immediately. To assure that his recommendations are indeed followed, the auditor promised another review "in the near future."

In a separate and unrelated follow up, the county auditor chided the administration for not keeping better track of employees' personal phone calls.

Mr. Weinstein reminded the administration that it is each department director's responsibility to assure that the number and length of personal calls on any given day are kept to a minimum and that no personal long-distance calls are allowed.

In a random sample of 11 agencies for the month of August, 1991, the auditor found that 7 percent of long distance calls were "questionable."

The auditor said offending employees should be identified, disciplined and required to refund the county the expense of the call. The worst offenders, the auditor said, are "part-time employees."

The auditor said it would be in the best interest of the county to establish a systematic review process and let employees know that records of their calls are being reviewed. A department that was averaging $109 a month in personal long distance calls during the first six months of this year cut that down to $14 after setting up review procedures, Mr. Weinstein said.

The auditor said a call-blocking system should be set up and used to prevent long-distance calls after work hours.

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