Fire Department audited

PAUL SMITHS - The Paul Smiths-Gabriels Volunteer Fire Department has received the findings of an audit conducted recently by the state Comptroller's Office.

Fire Chief Roger Smith says the department requested the audit, which reviewed internal controls over cash receipts and disbursements.

"We just wanted to get the run down on how our finances were being handled," Smith said. "So we asked for the audit."

The Comptroller's Office regularly performs audits of local governments in hopes of improving financial management practices.

"These audits are tools for local officials to make sure proper policies and procedures are in place to protect taxpayer dollars," said state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli in a written statement that accompanied the audit's findings.

The audit found that the fire department had very weak financial controls, and its board of directors had not established regulations for presiding over financial activity.

"The finance committee did not audit the treasurer's records," the report reads. "And the board did not properly audit claims prior to payment to ensure they represent proper department charges."

The report also states the department did not appropriately design or operate effective internal controls over cash receipts and disbursements. In other words, the fire department's treasurer failed to provide invoices for payments made, and in some instances the department overpaid for services due to lack of oversight.

The audit also found cash records were not up-to-date and deposits weren't made in a timely manner. Lastly, the audit showed the fire department board had not been receiving monthly financial reports.

"We just want to make sure we're doing everything we need to be doing in the manner the Comptroller wants us to do it," Smith said. "We're going to take their suggestions and try and implement them."

Smith added that the fire department plans to assign more than one person to oversee company finances. Spreading the work out assures oversight, Smith said, and he hopes any mistakes, like overpayments, will be caught in the future.

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