Report Suggests Better Internal Controls in Brentwood Government

Some of the recommendations have already been implemented, city administrator Bola Akande said.

An independent audit of the City of Brentwood suggests new procedures should be implemented for how the city manages and safeguards its finances.

hired accounting firm Hochschild, Bloom and Company to examine the city's books last year. In addition to an 84-page report that examined financial statements in 2010, the firm also presented a list of recommendations to improve internal accounting controls.

The recommendations were presented to the city in a letter dated June 29 and made available to Maplewood-Brentwood Patch on Sept. 6, more than five weeks after requesting a copy of the document. The city sent Patch a list of responses to each recommendation when it released the internal controls document.

"The city recognizes that constant improvement is essential to being an effective and responsive instrument for the people we serve," stated city administrator Bola Akande in the response. That's why the city plans to hire a , she stated.

In an interview with Patch, Akande noted that the the firm wasn't hired to complete a forensic audit, which would focusing on specific city systems (such as credit cards or vendor contracts). Instead, this audit examined small samples from the various city systems.

This audit didn't catch 's misuse of his city credit card, for example.

It's still important for the city to periodically review its policies to look for improvements, Akande said. Some policies have already been implemented, such as new procedures for establishing the and .

A list of suggested changes from the accounting firm, and the city's response to each item, is attached as a PDF to this article. Here's a sampling:

  • The city lacks "documented internal control procedures" for wire transfers. The city should establish procedures and require approval from at least two employees before transfers are authorized. 
  • The city fails to document business purposes on credit card receipts. 
  • Payroll timesheets for city employees aren't being submitted in a timely fashion.
Cecelia Nangle September 13, 2011 at 01:02 PM
Hiow much did this Hochschild's report cost? Is this considered an annual report?...has been done in the past or is this a new adventure?
Ryan Martin September 13, 2011 at 01:54 PM
Hi Cecelia — Thanks for the questions. This is an annual report that the city has sought for several years. Cities seek independent audits for a variety of reasons, least of which is to ensure all financial accounts are in compliance with the law. In February 2010, the Brentwood Board of Aldermen extended a contract with Hochschild, Bloom and Company through 2011 — The approved fees were $10,500 for 2009, $10,800 for 2010 and $11,100 for 2011, as noted in the February 1, 2010, meeting minutes.
Maureen Saunders September 14, 2011 at 09:48 PM
I am curious as to why the internal controls were not noted in prior years. Were these items included in the current management letter because the audit would have been done and the city would have been aware of the embezzlemant and unearned overtime at the time the mangagement letter was drafted? The purpose of internal conrols are to help prevent theft and fraud. Why didn't Hochschild Bloom and Co. recommend these controls be put in place in prior years? These controls are fundamental accounting procedures. Why didn't we have a qualified finance officer before now? Again, if the Mayor, BOA and city are sophisticated enough to enter into TIF, TDD transactions etc. implementing the basic controls and making sure you have a qualified finace officer is basic. Yes I am happy we are taking steps to move in the right direction and coommend Bola on her speedy actions, but it still doesn't make sense that it took a scandal to get the city to implement basic accounting principals. It appears that perhaps the city didn't want to know exactly what was going on and these flimsy accounting practices can't all be blamed on Chris Seemayer. Also. maybe we should request a refund a from Horschild, Bloom and Co. or take them to court. This should be front page news because the public doesn't really understand how flagrant the City has been in using the taxpayers' money. Maureen Saunders


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