LITTLE VALLEY – What do you do when the state comes in to audit your municipality and you produce documentation that provides the answers they are looking for, only to see the problems cited and your responses in smaller letters as a footnote?
“You just roll with it,” according to Cattaraugus County Administrator John “Jack” Searles.
That’s what happened with the county when auditors from the State Comptroller’s Office came into the two county centers for six months to take a look at all of the services provided and operations undertaken by county government.
One such area was Children with Special Needs. According to the findings of the report, a review of the files for 224 children found that 19 of the files were incomplete, in the eyes of auditors. One document or another was missing from those files, jeopardizing reimbursement from state agencies.
“What we told them, and provided to them, was that the information they were looking for was kept in a different file,” Searles said. “It was the nature of our record keeping that they took issue with. They want it all in one file. We will modify it.”
Searles said for six months, three auditors looked into every facet of county programs, and they had findings only in a select few areas.
“I would say it is good news,” Searles said. “There could have been a lot of other things that they found, but they didn’t. Do we have things to work on? Absolutely. We will deal with this the best we can and bring ourselves into compliance.
“We view these audits as not a bad thing, but something to learn from,” Searles continued. “We need to approach it from a ‘How can we be better?’ ” standpoint.”
The audit is the first of this kind of depth and scope he has seen in the more than 30 years he has been a county employee, Searles said.
The State Comptroller’s Office has been busy with audits in various school districts, villages, fire and police departments, and city governments, but has not really delved into the county level before now, Searles said.
“It’s just our time to be part of the process,” he said. “Past history tells me that the Comptroller’s Office may be more active in this process. So far, counties have not been audited to this extent.”