TN owed nearly $1 million in stolen public funds

TN owed nearly $1 million in stolen public funds (Image 1)

The Tennessee Comptroller’s Office has learned that nearly a million dollars identified as stolen from public funds is still uncollected by the counties that were victimized. New thefts outpace collection of outstanding funds.

An audit of stolen public funds in Tennessee shows that more than $775,000 of stolen money is still uncollected by the victimized counties.

The 2013 Report of Cash Shortages looked at reports from audits the Comptroller’s office did on 89 county governments and CPA prepared audits for six counties.

“It is always alarming when there is a cash shortage because it is tax payer money,” John Dunn with the Comptroller’s office said. “We hope these counties can retrieve as much money as they can.”

The Comptroller’s office is accountable for uncovering the missing money, but they are not a law enforcement agency.

“The comptroller’s job is to go into a county, analyze the financial records of that county and investigate when there are claims of theft or misuse of public money,” Dunn said. “This is taxpayer money and we want to make sure taxpayer money is protected.”

The fiscal year began with $563,372.50 in cash shortages that had not been recovered, but during the year another $449,624.04 of shortages were detected.

Through restitution payments, insurance claims and other means counties were able to recover $237,775.12. That leaves a net unrecovered shortage of $775,221.12.

One of the biggest shortages is in Williamson County where thefts in the recreation Department, County Clerk’s office and Animal Control Department amounted to a combined cash shortage of more than $145,000.

In all of the Williamson County instances the employees were prosecuted, convicted and ordered to pay restitution.

The report also notes a Bedford County balance of $31,460 from the Bedford County Sheriff’s Department where a former sex offender registry deputy is accused of pocketing money from the registrants meant for the county.

They found out that this went on from around January 2006 through December 2011.

A Bedford County Grand Jury indicted the former deputy in December on four counts of forgery, one count of official misconduct and one count of theft over $10,000.

One of the ways the Comptroller’s office works to prevent future thefts is educating counties on best practices when it comes to internal checks and balances.

“One problem we see a lot is one person having complete control of a transaction from beginning to end,” Dunn said. “When one person has control like that it opens the door up for money being stolen.”

The office also suggests local government make sure to have solid payroll procedures, not allow multiple employees operate out of one cash drawer and do a timely maintenance of accounting records.

“If government officials know we are going to be there every year looking for this shortage, looking for stolen money I think they will think twice before taking money in the future,” Dunn said.

Anyone who suspects misuse of public funds or property should report it to their county officials or the Tennessee Comptroller’s Office.

Tips can be made through the web or by calling 1-800-232-5454.

For a full list of all the counties with cash shortages that have not been recovered, click here.

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