Firm: County needs more administrative staff

By Alex Bridges

Staffing remains slim in the Shenandoah County administration and an audit shows a shortage affected operations and “internal controls.”

The county stands poised to fix the shortage by filling the last of two vacant administrative posts.

Robinson, Farmer, Cox Associates conducted an audit of the county’s finances for fiscal 2013 and recently presented its findings to the Board of Supervisors. In addition to the audit, the firm also issued a letter that included recommendations for the government to improve operations and oversight.

County Administrator Mary T. Price said Friday the administrative office has been understaffed for years and officials and the board have known this for more than a year.

“During our audit it was determined that the County Administration office appeared understaffed,” the letter states. “As a result, certain internal control mechanisms previously put in place were at times not being performed in a timely manner.”

A staff of seven people runs the administration of the county government. But when the auditing firm conducted its work, the county had not yet filled the accountant or assistant administrator positions. The assistant administrator would bring that number to eight and, as Price told the board Tuesday, applications are under review. Price said Friday the county currently has no plans to add more personnel to the administrative office.

The same auditing firm issued a similar statement to the county in its audit of fiscal 2012. As Price pointed out, the firm stated in its letter that “During our audit it was determined that the County Administration office appeared understaffed … We recommend the County determine if an additional finance/accounting person may be of benefit to aid in the strengthening of internal controls.”

The county took that recommendation in mind and, late last year, hired Matthew Green to fill the accountant position.

When the Board of Supervisors appointed Price last spring to replace County Administrator Douglas Walker to lead the government, first in the interim and then permanently, that left her former job as assistant administrator vacant.

Also in the letter, auditors had recommended previously that county staff review the payroll before paying employees. The auditors noted that payroll was eventually reviewed but not before funds were sent to the bank for payment.

“Likewise, some accounts payable, budget monitoring and other accounting functions were not performed in a timely manner due to the various projects undertaken by the County and reductions in staff,” the letter states.

“Our comments and recommendations, all of which have been discussed with appropriate members of management are intended to improve the internal controls or result in other operating efficiencies,” the letter states.

During the audit, the firm determined that payments collected through the fees for ambulance service had not been distributed to the participating volunteer fire and rescue companies in a timely manner, according to the firm.

“In addition to the infancy of the program, the delay in remittances to the agencies appeared to be related to turnover in staff and the understaffing of the County Administration discussed previously,” the letter states.

Contact staff writer Alex Bridges at 540-465-5137 ext. 125, or abridges@nvdaily.com