State operations get favorable audit report

LOUISVILLE — Kentucky Auditor Crit Luallen gave an overall favorable review of the state's financial activities after scrutinizing operations in the last fiscal year, but her report pinpointed instances where some agencies lacked sufficient oversight.

The 221-page audit, issued Monday, reviewed $23 billion of expenditures in the fiscal year that ended June 30. It was the first of a two-part annual audit of state government.

Among its findings, the report said the Transportation Cabinet should adopt new work-time monitoring policies in emergencies after some workers accumulated huge amounts of overtime during last year's ice storm.

One employee amassed 1,111 overtime hours from Jan. 1 to June 15 last year, the report stated.

Another worked multiple shifts of 22 hours. The auditor's office found that employees signed in and out on the honor system, and found examples of employees approving their own time sheets.

The cabinet allowed employees to volunteer to work as monitors at debris burn sites after their normal schedules, resulting in substantial overtime, the report said.

"The efforts of these volunteer employees should be applauded," the report said. "However, a problem arises when their efforts are not monitored. This can lead to a lack of accountability in work scheduling."

Meanwhile, the report urged the Department of Agriculture to strengthen internal controls. The report found 11 instances in which the department failed to adequately justify expenses.

The report also said it found two instances when Department of Agriculture employees failed to safeguard procurement cards. In one instance, a procurement card was stolen, resulting in several fraudulent charges that later were recovered.

The report found 38 instances when the parks department failed to pay vendors in a timely manner, including 22 times when the vendor was paid six months to one year after the invoice date. Agencies incur a penalty on payments not made within 30 days, it said.

In a repeat finding from previous years, the report said it found instances in which bridges had not been inspected within two years as expected. A review of 40 inspection reports found that 19 of the 40 bridges had gone more than two years between inspections, it said. When factoring in a 30-day leeway allowed for bad weather and other circumstances, nine of the 40 bridges hadn't been inspected in a timely manner.

The cabinet responded in the report that personnel shortages are a "critical issue" in keeping up with bridge inspections and said it has obtained four contract inspectors to assist.

Overall, the audit included 70 findings of insufficient internal controls over financial reporting. The report included recommendations on how to fix the problems. The report found that staffing shortages — a result of state budget woes — affected oversight, especially in information technology.

The second part of the audit, to be released in March, focuses on the state's compliance with federal grant requirements.