Missouri News: Follow-up review of City of Amoret finds limited progress on audit recommendations; fiscal controls in one area worsened

Auditor Galloway says Board of Aldermen should investigate more than $600 in missing utility funds, take steps to ensure better financial oversight

JEFFERSON CITY, MO (STL.News) – Missouri State Auditor Nicole Galloway has released a report on the city of Amoret showing limited progress has been made on recommendations from a 2017 audit that gave a rating of “poor.”  Auditors returned to the small Bates County town (pop. 190) to assess whether city officials had addressed the concerns with the city’s financial processes and lack of oversight.

Auditor Galloway also sent a separate letter to the Mayor and the Board of Aldermen specifically on the review of the handling of utility receipts by city personnel.  The review identified more than $600 that was recorded but not deposited and found that receipting, recording and depositing procedures were not adequate.  The Auditor said the Board should further investigate the missing money and take necessary action to recover it, as well as take steps to properly issue receipt slips and reconcile deposits and receipts.

“It is very troubling that not only has progress been slow in addressing the problems my audit pointed out, in some instances the procedures have become worse and public funds cannot be accounted for,” Auditor Galloway said.  “Amoret officials need to take appropriate steps right away to be fiscally accountable and better serve their constituents.”

While the 2017 audit noted several poor accounting practices, a specific area of concern was the failure to issue receipts for all utility payments.  In the follow-up report, auditors determined city officials had taken no action on this recommendation.  Auditors also found discrepancies between receipts and deposits, including money orders recorded as a payment to the personal utility account of the city clerk/treasurer.  Overall, the report found that controls over receipting, recording and depositing had actually become worse since completion of the audit.

The progress report found only two of the 20 recommendations reviewed were implemented. City officials had not addressed eight of the recommendations nor made specific plans to act on them.  The other recommendations were either partially implemented or in progress.

The progress report also found the city’s Board of Aldermen has not established procedures to provide information to the state Department of Revenue regarding individuals potentially unqualified to run for or hold elected office because of unpaid tax issues.  The 2017 audit found that the Mayor and an Alderwoman were potentially unqualified to run or hold office.

While both of those officeholders are no longer serving, a similar issue occurred in the April 2018 election.  A newly elected Alderman owed delinquent city property taxes at the time of that election; he resigned after auditors began inquiring about the issue.

The two implemented recommendations were for the Board of Aldermen to establish a formal bidding policy and ensure all applicable purchases are made in accordance with the policy, and for the Board to ensure meeting notices and agendas are given for all Board meetings.