In the Jan. 15 edition of The Covington News, a legal noticed was published on order of the Superior Court of Newton County State Court of Georgia. The notice was an “Order to Publish Grand Jury Presentments” recommending a deeper look into the county’s forensic audit.
Contained in the notice was a grand jury report on its investigation into the findings of a forensic audit conducted last year by Frazier and Deeter CPAs and Advisors. The audit was undertaken after financial irregularities in county government were discovered. The results of the audit were published in the Dec. 1, 2016 online version of The Covington News and the subsequent print edition that Sunday.
“We strongly advise that the new Board of Commissioners take very seriously the apparent lack of oversight that exists in the County’s financial review and accounting process,” according to the Grand Jury report. The report further states that there seems to be insufficient measures in place to assure citizens that “proper accountability and integrity is maintained.”
The report suggests the apparent lack of sufficient measures led to a lack of accountability of behalf of the Newton County Board of Commissioners (BOC). The report suggests that some of this lack of accountability could result from confusion over the roles of the chairman, the BOC and the county staff. The report states this issue is too important to not address, and recommends the new chairman, BOC, county manager and county professional staff work quickly to establish standard operating procedures, including safeguards to avoid any conflicts of interest, to assure accountability.
County Manager Lloyd Kerr addressed the report during Tuesday’s BOC meeting. His statement is published below:
“In regards to this weekend’s Grand Jury presentments on the recent forensic audit, Newton County elected and appointed officials have responded and are continuing to respond to this issue.
“The issues with oversite, insufficient measures and accountability stated by the Grand Jury have been analyzed by staff, and new procedures and policies are in place. Specific to the Grand Jury’s recommendations – we have begun moving forward with enacting a sound financial management policies, made corrective adjustments regarding procedures, have enacted personnel changes since the report was undertaken and have begun bolstering our ethics area of our rules and procedures.
“Among many items addressed has been the change in form of government, which clearly has defined the roles of the Chair and County Manager beginning this month.
“Along with clear-cut defined roles, as stated in Newton County’s new charter, the county has also put into effect several new rules of procedure regarding accountability, finances and oversite.
“Many of these procedures were being worked on before the release of the report by Frazier and Deeter. Others were swiftly put into place immediately following the report’s presentation to the board of commissioners.
“We acknowledge the severity of the issues and reassure the public that we do take this serious and are dedicated to resolving the issues."