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County plans to hire internal auditor

The Kitsap County Commissioners could begin searching for an internal auditor, who would analyze county finances and departmental procedures, as soon as Nov. 26.

“We need someone on a full-time basis to establish oversight throughout all of the departments,” said Kitsap County Administrator Malcolm Fleming. “Right now, those duties are split among the different department heads.”

County department chiefs often can’t keep up with those duties, and the county Auditor’s Office isn’t equipped with an internal auditor function either.

Currently, county Auditor’s Office employees spend their time working on elections, payroll, county record maintenance and financial services.

“There’s no capability right now within the office to zero in on each department,” said county Auditor Karen Flynn who, along with Kitsap County Treasurer Sharon Schrader, has lobbied for creation of an internal auditor for years.

“An internal auditor can go from department to department and point out things that need strengthening,” Flynn said. “Creating the position could only be beneficial. There’s lots of cash-handling for county functions, so it’s important all employees have good internal controls.”

An internal auditor also might help avoid any findings by State Auditor Brian Sonntag’s office.

Sonntag’s staff issued a report last spring criticizing the Kitsap County Fair and Rodeo’s weak cash-handling procedures.

The report said that $2,807 was unaccounted for after the 2000 county fair and found that $16,000 was not properly accounted for until weeks after the event.

New fair co-managers Frank Abbot and Lauran Erickson took steps to correct the problems prior to the 2001 fair. But county officials said an internal auditor could have pinpointed and prevented those cash-handling problems before they occurred.

The same goes for other county departments, they said.

Fleming said the internal auditor will be responsible for analyzing basic business practices to ensure efficiency.

“We can find ways to improve how we do business to better benefit the public,” Fleming said.

The county commissioners also could choose to establish an internal auditor oversight committee, which would be made up of the county auditor, the county administrator, a representative tabbed by the commissioners and a representative of other county elected officials.

Still to be resolved is whether that committee or the county auditor would supervise the internal auditor.

Flynn said the position should be directly managed by the County Auditor because the job requires the day-to-day supervision a committee couldn’t provide.

Fleming has advocated that the committee supervise the internal auditor to ensure objectivity.

“One of the things I have been trying to emphasize is that the auditor could better keep an objective view of the issues if the position reports to the committee,” Fleming said. “The committee will set priorities and areas of investigation and could put together a work program for the individual.”

The preliminary county budget includes $83,000 for the internal auditor position, which would cover salary, benefits, equipment and supplies.

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