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Hartford's Loose Hand On Finances

Audit Finds Fiscal Controls Still Lacking At Hartford City Hall

Hartford Courant Editorial

July 05, 2013

More evidence that Hartford city government isn't running like a Swiss watch: An audit of the unit that oversees the money coming into the city found that its "policies, procedures and controls relating to a number of key revenue processes ... were either not fully documented and/or needed improvement."

The audit, by Chief Auditor H. Patrick Campbell for the city's Internal Audit Commission, focused on the revenue management unit of the city finance department, which is responsible for the oversight of general fund revenue due the city, about $550 million this year. The auditors found a number of problems, including:

Poor control of lease agreements, rental properties and other revenue-producing arrangements. For example, one city parking lease had not been renegotiated since 2000, for reasons that are unclear, the auditors report.

Lease issues are troubling because they were identified in an earlier audit, which supposedly spurred corrective action. The position of asset manager was created to oversee and manage leases, and a lease, licensing and contract database was to be created.

In this review, the auditors discovered that the asset manager position was eliminated and the database was never completed. Eliminating positions that bring in revenue is eating the seed corn.

151 bounced checks totaling more than $392,000. More than half of these checks had not been followed up and resolved. Nor was it clear whether late or insufficient-fund fees were being charged. Many fees and charges are handled by individual departments; the auditors recommend they be centralized. You can't have people bouncing checks at city hall and getting away with it.

Missing documentation. The department is supposed to keep track of actual vs. budgeted revenues, to determine what might be causing any discrepancies. The finance department did reviews, apparently, but "documentation to support the reviews and follow-up performed is not maintained on file," the auditors wrote.

Hartford is in very difficult financial shape and won't inspire confidence if its fiscal systems are slipshod. It is up to Mayor Pedro Segarra to see that every nickel, due and payable, is properly accounted for.

Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant. To view other stories on this topic, search the Hartford Courant Archives at http://www.courant.com/archives.
| Last update: September 25, 2012 |
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