Jonesboro auditor: Better money controls needed for police

— An auditor has recommended the Jonesboro City Council tighten up the internal money controls in its police department to prevent misuse or theft of funds.

While Geoff Fulton said there have not been any discrepancies or signs of misuse of citation revenues by police officers, he did say better control methods would protect the department from such issues. He said the recommendation has been made by his firm, Fulton & Kozak, because of the large amounts of cash and money orders used to pay traffic and code enforcement citations.

The recommendation was made as part of a city-wide audit conducted by Fulton & Kozak.

“Whenever we make these internal control recommendations, it’s not only for the benefit of management, but it’s also for the individual department,” said Fulton. “That way, if there is ever any questions about the individual department, they can say, ‘Hey, you guys come in here all the time and are looking at the internal controls’.”

While the recommendation may sound like something is wrong in Jonesboro, Fulton said that is not the case. Whenever a city department, such as the police department, handles large amounts of cash or money orders — to pay for court fines, for example — the risk of misappropriation of those funds increases, he said.

The amount of money collected from citation fines was not disclosed during the audit presentation.

Without strict internal controls that are regularly monitored, there is a possibility that someone in the police department could override the existing controls and misuse the money collected by the department. Fulton said there was no indication that the existing controls in the department were being monitored by city officials on a regular basis.

“So this is just a safeguard?” said Councilman Clarence Mann.

“Exactly,” Fulton replied.

Fulton suggested the city monitor the controls at least once every six months.

After he finished giving his report to the council, Fulton said the internal controls recommendation is a practice best used by many cities to protect the integrity of departments and revenues.

Mayor Joy Day said the city will consider the recommendations, although it is not clear when the council might take up a measure to address the internal controls issue.