Fairview Fire District

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1 O FFICE OF THE NEW YORK STATE COMPTROLLER DIVISION OF LOCAL GOVERNMENT & SCHOOL ACCOUNTABILITY Fairview Fire District Internal Controls Over Payroll Report of Examination Period Covered: January 1, 2008 April 24, M-211 Thomas P. DiNapoli

2 Table of Contents AUTHORITY LETTER 2 Page INTRODUCTION 3 Background 3 Objective 3 Scope and Methodology 3 Comments of Fire District Officials and Corrective Action 3 PAYROLL 5 Board Oversight 6 Treasurer s Duties 7 Recommendations 8 APPENDIX A Response From Fire District Officials 9 APPENDIX B OSC Comments on the District s Response 20 APPENDIX C Audit Methodology and Standards 23 APPENDIX D How to Obtain Additional Copies of the Report 24 APPENDIX E Local Regional Office Listing 25 DIVISION OF LOCAL GOVERNMENT AND SCHOOL ACCOUNTABILITY 11

3 State of New York Office of the State Comptroller Division of Local Government and School Accountability March 2010 Dear Fire District Officials: A top priority of the Office of the State Comptroller is to help local government officials manage government resources efficiently and effectively and, by so doing, provide accountability for tax dollars spent to support government operations. The Comptroller oversees the fiscal affairs of local governments statewide, as well as compliance with relevant statutes and observance of good business practices. This fiscal oversight is accomplished, in part, through our audits, which identify opportunities for improving operations and Board of Fire Commissioners governance. Audits also can identify strategies to reduce costs and to strengthen controls intended to safeguard local government assets. Following is a report of our audit of Fairview Fire District, entitled Internal Controls Over Payroll. This audit was conducted pursuant to Article V, Section 1 of the State Constitution and the State Comptroller s authority as set forth in Article 3 of the General Municipal Law. This audit s results and recommendations are resources for local government officials to use in effectively managing operations and in meeting the expectations of their constituents. If you have questions about this report, please feel free to contact the local regional office for your county, as listed at the end of this report. Respectfully submitted, Offi ce of the State Comptroller Division of Local Government and School Accountability 2 OFFICE OF THE NEW YORK STATE COMPTROLLER

4 Introduction Background The Fairview Fire District (District) is located in the Town of Greenburgh (Town) in Westchester County. The District is a district corporation of the State, distinct and separate from the Town, and governed by an elected five-member Board of Fire Commissioners (Board). The District covers approximately five and one-half square miles and services 26,000 residents. The Board is responsible for the overall financial management of the District, including establishing appropriate internal controls over District operations and recordkeeping. The Board has the power to levy taxes on real property located in the District and to issue debt. The Board appoints the Fire Chief (Chief) who is the chief executive officer. The Chief is responsible for the day-to-day administration of District operations. The District employed between 42 and 45 professional firefighters during our audit period. For fiscal year ended 2008, personal service expenditures totaled about $9 million. Annually, the Board appoints a District Treasurer (Treasurer) who is the District s chief fiscal officer. The Treasurer is responsible for the receipt, custody, disbursement, and accounting of District funds and for preparing monthly and annual financial reports. The Treasurer accounts for the District s financial activities in the general fund. The District s budget for fiscal year 2009 was $11 million. Objective The objective of our audit was to examine the internal controls over the District s payroll function. Our audit addressed the following question: Did the Board design and implement appropriate internal controls to ensure that payroll activities are properly and accurately recorded and reported? Scope and Methodology We examined the internal controls over the District s financial operations for the period January 1, 2008 to April 24, We conducted our audit in accordance with generally accepted government auditing standards (GAGAS). More information on such standards and the methodology used in performing this audit is included in Appendix C of this report. Comments of Fire District Officials and Corrective Action The results of our audit and recommendations have been discussed with Fire District officials and their comments, which appear in Appendix A, have been considered in preparing this report. Fire DIVISION OF LOCAL GOVERNMENT AND SCHOOL ACCOUNTABILITY 33

5 District officials generally disagreed with our findings. Appendix B contains OSC comments on issues raised in the District s response. The Board has the responsibility to initiate corrective action. Pursuant to Section 181-b of the Town Law, a written corrective action plan (CAP) that addresses the findings and recommendations in this report must be prepared and forwarded to our office within 90 days. To the extent practicable, implementation of the CAP must begin by the end of the next fiscal year. For more information on preparing and filing your CAP, please refer to our brochure, Responding to an OSC Audit Report, which you received with the draft audit report. The Board should make the CAP available for public review in the Secretary s office. 4 OFFICE OF THE NEW YORK STATE COMPTROLLER

6 Payroll An effective system of internal controls over payroll processing ensures that employees are properly paid the wages and salaries and provided benefits to which they are duly entitled. Internal controls over payroll consist of written policies and procedures that describe employee responsibilities in preparing and disbursing payroll and written Board authorization for salaries, wages, and fringe benefits. It is important that policies, collective bargaining agreements, and/or individual employee contracts stipulate each employee s entitlement to the accrual, use, and payment of leave time. Two of the essential components of any internal control system are management oversight and/or proper segregation of duties to ensure that no one person controls all phases of a transaction. Pursuant to the provisions of collective bargaining agreements, each firefighter s base salary is the basis on which additional compensation is calculated. For example, firefighters receive extra pay equal to 3 percent of their gross pay rate for maintaining their Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) license. Officers receive extra pay equal to 5 percent of their base salary for shift reporting 1 before their additional 3 percent EMT pay is calculated. Additionally, the agreements provide that firefighters receive pay for 14 holidays, compensatory time for training or shift work exceeding 40 hours in any week, overtime, vacation time and incentive pay for not using sick leave. Firefighters with over 10 years of District service receive longevity pay based on their annual gross pay. The District employed between 42 and 45 professional firefighters, including the Chief, two administrative appointees, the Treasurer and a part-time Secretary. The Secretary also serves the District as a full-time Senior Clerk. For fiscal year ended 2008 personal service costs totaled $9.1 million for the District, of which $6.1 million went directly to pay compensation and the remaining $3 million for related employee benefits. The Board has a multi-year contract with the Chief, and two collective bargaining agreements with the Greenburgh Uniformed Firefighters Association, Incorporated. 2 However, it does not have any individual employee contracts with the Treasurer, the Secretary or the Senior Clerk. 1 Shift reporting is the briefing by the officers on duty to the next shift updating the shift as to the status of the firehouse and any impending items, such as training, injuries, etc. 2 One for the firefighters and the second with the officers (Captains and Deputy Chiefs) DIVISION OF LOCAL GOVERNMENT AND SCHOOL ACCOUNTABILITY 55

7 The Board did not have written payroll policies and procedures in place, which resulted in the Chief and the Treasurer developing their own informal procedures. We found that, in general, there was a lack of Board oversight and segregation of duties in the payroll processing that allowed for errors and/or irregularities to occur and go undetected. For example, the Treasurer increased pay rates and benefits totaling approximately $53,900 without the Board s prior written authorization. Board Oversight The Board s oversight of payroll activities was not adequate. The Board did not adopt written policies and procedures which address, among other things, authorization of payroll processing, such as recordkeeping, additions (i.e., new employees) and changes, maintenance of time and attendance and accrual records, payroll preparation, distribution of paychecks, and the recording of data in the budgetary and financial records. In the absence of written payroll policies and procedures, the Chief and the Treasurer developed their own informal procedures. The Chief authorized payroll changes. However, there was no written evidence that the Board formally delegated this responsibility to the Chief. The Senior Clerk maintains the time and attendance records. The Treasurer inputs the payroll information through a web-based system using a contracted payroll service to process the paychecks and prepare tax reports. The Board did not review the payroll or require a review of payroll by a person independent of the payroll function. We found that the Treasurer made minor errors in the holiday pay calculations during the processing of the payroll. As a result, the Treasurer erroneously calculated and paid $12,227 for excessive holiday pay. If the Board or an independent person had reviewed the Treasurer s work, those errors could have been detected and corrected. Following are some examples of the errors: The Fire Chief and four of the five deputy chiefs received an additional $2,875 in holiday pay due to errors in their base pay rates. Three new firefighters were overpaid holiday compensation totaling $5,530. Their employment with the District began in March 2008, after four holidays occurred; therefore, they should not have been compensated for those days. One firefighter was paid for 21 holidays when the District has only 14 paid holidays annually. Therefore, the firefighter was overpaid $3,530 for seven holidays. 6 OFFICE OF THE NEW YORK STATE COMPTROLLER

8 Due to the lack of Board oversight of the payroll activities and written policies and procedures, errors and/or irregularities occurred and remained undetected and uncorrected. When payroll changes are made without proper authorization and the payroll process is not properly monitored and reviewed by someone independent of the process, there is a significant risk that the District s monies could be misappropriated or misused without being detected. Treasurer s Duties It is important that the Board establish a system of checks and balances over payroll so that one person does not exercise control over all or most of the process. The three key payroll duties that need to be segregated are authorization for adding employee records and changing hourly and annual salary amounts; recordkeeping (inputting time worked and posting of payroll to the accounting records); and asset custody (distribution of paychecks). If the District s limited staff size precludes establishing an adequate segregation of duties, at a minimum, the Board must consider mitigating this internal control weakness by having someone independent of the preparation process perform a review of the completed payrolls and accrual records. This could include having a District official approve bank transfers, sign the payroll reports after review, and review the payroll bank account reconciliation. Furthermore, Civil Service Law requires municipal employers to submit the names and annual salary of all civil service employees to the county for certification on an annual basis. The Treasurer performs the payroll function including receiving payroll changes from the Clerk, inputting the pay rate changes and hours worked using the contractual web-based payroll service, transferring funds to the payroll account, and reconciling the payroll bank account. However, the Board did not review or cause a review of the monthly payroll for authorization and accuracy. The Board has not implemented any compensating controls to reduce the risks associated with inadequate verification of the payroll. Due to these control deficiencies, we examined the 2008 payroll totaling $6.1 million. We found the Treasurer increased salary payments without prior written Board authorization totaling approximately $53,900. According to the minutes of the January 2008 organizational meeting, the Board authorized a base salary for the Treasurer and the Secretary of $52,000 and $30,000, respectively. In addition, the Secretary was paid $56,487 for her duties as the Chief s Senior Clerk. However, we found that this salary amount was not expressly established by the Board as required. In addition, we found the Treasurer increased the base pay by 4 percent above these salaries, for a total base pay increase of $5,458, without prior authorization from the Board. Furthermore, due to the increase to the base pay, the extra compensation received in benefits increased by $527. DIVISION OF LOCAL GOVERNMENT AND SCHOOL ACCOUNTABILITY 77

9 In addition, effective February 2008, the Chief designated a Deputy Chief to a temporary position of Executive Deputy Chief with a stipend of $22,000. Accordingly, the Treasurer increased the salary of the Deputy Chief and his benefits also increased by an additional $18,918 for a total compensation increase of $40,918. There was no evidence in the minutes that the Board authorized this designation and salary increase. Finally, we also verified the Chief s base salary for 2008 to his individual employment agreement and found that the Treasurer paid the Chief $4,420 in excess of his contracted rate. Similarly, his benefits increased by an additional $1,113 for a total compensation increase of $5,533. The Treasurer admitted that an error occurred when she incorrectly applied the EMT rate twice. In addition, none of the four changes in salary were included and submitted on the District s roster to the Westchester County Civil Service Department for payroll certification. Without adequate internal controls such as policies and procedures that require the approval and review of all payroll changes, the Board did not detect the unauthorized payments totaling approximately $53,900. Recommendations 1. The Board should adopt written policies and procedures to provide guidance over payroll recordkeeping and reporting activities, which address the current lack of segregation of duties. 2. The Board should negotiate all employment agreements, ensure that all payroll changes are authorized before payment is made, and verify that the monthly payroll is properly and accurately calculated and prepared. 8 OFFICE OF THE NEW YORK STATE COMPTROLLER

10 APPENDIX A RESPONSE FROM FIRE DISTRICT OFFICIALS The Fire District officials response to this audit can be found on the following pages. DIVISION OF LOCAL GOVERNMENT AND SCHOOL ACCOUNTABILITY 99

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21 APPENDIX B OSC COMMENTS ON THE DISTRICT S RESPONSE Note 1 We provided District officials with a draft report of our findings. The minor adjustments (primarily to the background information) to the draft report, that were discussed at the exit conference and verified by an to District officials, did not warrant issuing a revised draft report. Note 2 During the initial stage of the audit, we performed a risk assessment to determine the areas with the highest risk. Based on the results of our risk assessment, we determined that internal controls over payroll activities would be the focus of our audit. A detailed description of our audit process is in Appendix C of the report Audit Methodology and Standards. Note 3 While firefighters salary increases may be used as a basis to negotiate other District employees pay increases, a separate bargaining agreement or Board resolution is necessary to establish pay rates and salary increases for employees. Our review of the December 2007 Board minutes found no Board resolution authorizing a 4 percent pay increase as of January 1, 2008 for the Treasurer and Senior Clerk. Furthermore, the Board did not provide the Treasurer with a written directive or payroll change form to verify these increases until January The District should have withheld the increases until the Board formally authorized them. Note 4 Our statement is based on our review and analysis of information and records provided by District officials and staff during the course of our audit. District officials have not provided us with any additional, credible information that would cause us to amend our report. Note 5 The Board s oversight of payroll activities was inadequate. The Board did not adopt and implement internal controls over the payroll recordkeeping activities. They did not review or cause a review of the biweekly payroll, and there was no verification of payroll changes for accuracy by someone not involved in the payroll process. The Rules and Regulations of 1974 do not address the Treasurer s recordkeeping procedures for her payroll activities. Note 6 We reviewed the Board minutes and found no documentation that indicated that the Board established the salary and starting date for the three new firefighters that were employed in March OFFICE OF THE NEW YORK STATE COMPTROLLER

22 Furthermore, although the Treasurer was provided with a salary change form for the 4 percent pay increase paid retroactively from January 2008, the form was not signed until January Finally, the Treasurer did not receive change forms to authorize pay increases paid to the Chief, which increased the Chief s base rate before the Board approved his contract. Note 7 The 1974 Rules and Regulations referenced by the District provide that the Chief may designate members of any of the various ranks or grades to perform, temporarily, the duties of the members of the next higher rank. However, Addendum B in the Officers 2005 bargaining agreement established the title of Executive Deputy Chief, and supersedes the Rules and Regulations of 1974, granting the District the authority to designate an Executive Deputy Chief as a management/confidential position outside of any bargaining unit. When the Board appoints or designates such appointees, outside of any bargaining agreement, it needs to establish any additional compensation for the position by resolution or contract. The Executive Deputy Chief began his new duties in February 2008 and received additional pay immediately. The Treasurer paid him $22,000 above his Deputy Chief s base salary, in the form of a stipend, without a Board resolution authorizing the appointment to this management/confidential position and additional pay. Furthermore, neither the Board nor the Chief provided the Treasurer with a change form before the Treasurer implemented the salary increase in February Note 8 We found no indication that adjustments were made to the 2008 final payroll registers, the District s 2008 accounting records or the 2008 employees wage reporting statements (W-2s) for the holiday pay. The Treasurer did not make end-of-year holiday pay adjustments and did not amend W-2s. Note 9 The spreadsheet we prepared and provided to the District for the two firefighters who received the step increase had an error, which we corrected. However, we did not include this information in the draft report sent to the District. Note 10 The Board minutes make no mention of a Memorandum of Agreement between the District and the officers as of March 10, The Secretary faxed us a copy of the Memorandum of Agreement after we received the District officials response. However, the document was not dated, and there is no indication that this was a valid agreement that was agreed to by the Board. Note 11 The payment advice from the payroll processing company does not show the reversing of the holiday pay for the three new firefighters. First, the amount is incorrect. Second, per the contract, the holiday pay should have been paid on the pay period closest to June 1. A reversing transaction on May 22, 2008 would indicate that this reversal is for some other payroll error that took place prior to that date. DIVISION OF LOCAL GOVERNMENT AND SCHOOL ACCOUNTABILITY 2121

23 Note 12 We have amended our report to state that the Senior Clerk was paid $56,487 during 2008 for her fulltime clerical duties, in addition to her part-time Secretary duties salary of $30,000. Note 13 The Executive Deputy Chief s bargaining agreement set the annual stipend of $24,000 on June 16, The Executive Deputy Chief received $22,000 because he held the position for only 11 months. Note 14 The Treasurer miscalculated the Chief s salary and the payments made in 2008 were not authorized by the Board. Even though the Board amended the Chief s salary to include the erroneous amount, retroactively to January 2008, this action does not provide an acceptable degree of transparency for compensating District officials. Note 15 The District s official response confirms that the salaries paid in 2008 to the Senior Clerk, Secretary, and Treasurer were not approved by the Board Chair until January 8, Note 16 The Board did not grant approval for the multi-year contracts with the Executive Deputy Chief and the Chief until June The District did not provide us with or share any written evidence including electronic correspondence between the Personnel Committee and the general counsel indicating that the Board intended to grant additional increases during The pay increase for the Chief and the stipend increase for the Executive Deputy Chief were paid approximately 17 months prior to the Board approving the bargaining agreements. 22 OFFICE OF THE NEW YORK STATE COMPTROLLER

24 APPENDIX C AUDIT METHODOLOGY AND STANDARDS Our overall goal was to assess the adequacy of the internal controls put in place by officials to safeguard Fire District assets. To accomplish this, we performed an initial assessment of the internal controls so that we could design our audit to focus on those areas most at risk. Our initial assessment included evaluations of the following areas: financial oversight, cash receipts and disbursements, purchasing, payroll and personal services. During the initial assessment, we interviewed appropriate Fire District officials, performed limited tests of transactions and reviewed pertinent documents, such as Fire District policies and procedures manuals, Board minutes, and financial records and reports. After reviewing the information gathered during our initial assessment, we determined where weaknesses existed, and evaluated those weaknesses for the risk of potential fraud, theft and/or professional misconduct. Based on that evaluation, we determined that controls appeared to be adequate and limited risk existed in most of the financial areas that we reviewed. We then decided on the reported objective and scope by selecting for audit those areas most at risk. We selected payroll for further audit testing. We examined the internal controls over the District s payroll activities for the period January 1, 2008 through April 24, To accomplish the objective of this audit and obtain valid audit evidence, our procedures included the following steps: We interviewed the Treasurer, Secretary/Senior Clerk and Chief to gain an understanding of the internal control policies and procedures used to control, record, and monitor payroll. We reviewed bargaining agreements and the Board minutes for payroll authorizations. We reviewed the payroll certification from Westchester County for roster comparison. We evaluated the payroll expenditures to verify their authorization, and approval, and to determine whether the Treasurer processed the payroll properly. We traced bank account transfers and fund transfers listed on the bank statements to supporting documentation to verify their propriety. We traced the payroll processing service s reports to the general ledger and the District s W-2s. We conducted this performance audit in accordance with generally accepted government auditing standards (GAGAS). Those standards require that we plan and perform the audit to obtain sufficient, appropriate evidence to provide a reasonable basis for our findings and conclusions based on our audit objective. We believe that the evidence obtained provides a reasonable basis for our findings and conclusions based on our audit objective. DIVISION OF LOCAL GOVERNMENT AND SCHOOL ACCOUNTABILITY 2323

25 APPENDIX D HOW TO OBTAIN ADDITIONAL COPIES OF THE REPORT To obtain copies of this report, write or visit our web page: Office of the State Comptroller Public Information Office 110 State Street, 15th Floor Albany, New York (518) OFFICE OF THE NEW YORK STATE COMPTROLLER

26 APPENDIX E OFFICE OF THE STATE COMPTROLLER DIVISION OF LOCAL GOVERNMENT AND SCHOOL ACCOUNTABILITY Steven J. Hancox, Deputy Comptroller John C. Traylor, Assistant Comptroller LOCAL REGIONAL OFFICE LISTING BUFFALO REGIONAL OFFICE Robert Meller, Chief Examiner Office of the State Comptroller 295 Main Street, Suite 1032 Buffalo, New York (716) Fax (716) Serving: Allegany, Cattaraugus, Chautauqua, Erie, Genesee, Niagara, Orleans, Wyoming counties ROCHESTER REGIONAL OFFICE Edward V. Grant, Jr., Chief Examiner Office of the State Comptroller The Powers Building 16 West Main Street Suite 522 Rochester, New York (585) Fax (585) Serving: Cayuga, Chemung, Livingston, Monroe, Ontario, Schuyler, Seneca, Steuben, Wayne, Yates counties SYRACUSE REGIONAL OFFICE Eugene A. Camp, Chief Examiner Office of the State Comptroller State Office Building, Room E. Washington Street Syracuse, New York (315) Fax (315) Serving: Herkimer, Jefferson, Lewis, Madison, Oneida, Onondaga, Oswego, St. Lawrence counties GLENS FALLS REGIONAL OFFICE Karl Smoczynski, Chief Examiner Office of the State Comptroller One Broad Street Plaza Glens Falls, New York (518) Fax (518) Serving: Clinton, Essex, Franklin, Fulton, Hamilton, Montgomery, Rensselaer, Saratoga, Warren, Washington counties ALBANY REGIONAL OFFICE Kenneth Madej, Chief Examiner Office of the State Comptroller 22 Computer Drive West Albany, New York (518) Fax (518) Serving: Albany, Columbia, Dutchess, Greene, Schenectady, Ulster counties HAUPPAUGE REGIONAL OFFICE Jeffrey P. Leonard, Chief Examiner Office of the State Comptroller NYS Office Building, Room 3A10 Veterans Memorial Highway Hauppauge, New York (631) Fax (631) Serving: Nassau, Suffolk counties BINGHAMTON REGIONAL OFFICE Patrick Carbone, Chief Examiner Office of the State Comptroller State Office Building, Room Hawley Street Binghamton, New York (607) Fax (607) Serving: Broome, Chenango, Cortland, Delaware, Otsego, Schoharie, Sullivan, Tioga, Tompkins counties NEWBURGH REGIONAL OFFICE Christopher Ellis, Chief Examiner Office of the State Comptroller 33 Airport Center Drive, Suite 103 New Windsor, New York (845) Fax (845) Serving: Orange, Putnam, Rockland, Westchester counties DIVISION OF LOCAL GOVERNMENT AND SCHOOL ACCOUNTABILITY 2525

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