TARBORO, N.C. (WNCN) — Thirteen allegations were the catalyst for an investigative report into Edgecombe County’s financial practices released on Wednesday.
The investigation, by the Office of the State Auditor, included interviews with past and present county officials and analyzing financial statements, some dating back to 2017.
Among the full 36-page report, there were six key findings.
Unapproved Budget Amendments
The audit found that changes to the county budget had been recorded into the county’s financial system without board approval. These unapproved amendments totaled $9,600,000, the report said.
These recordings were able to go unapproved, the report said, because “the county does not have adequate written procedures to ensure that only board-approved budget amendments are recorded.”
Late in Submitting to IRS
The OSA found that Edgecombe County was late to submit its federal withholdings to the IRS. Missing that due date came with penalties and fees that cost the county $167,602.
Bank Reconciliations Not Completed
Edgecombe County also did not complete its monthly bank reconciliation for its disbursing and trust accounts, the report said. These reconciliations are a practice that helps to prevent or detect possible “errors, thefts or misuses of cash” by comparing the cash balance in the county’s accounting system with the balance the bank reports.
This issue is not new to the county as it was also found in fiscal years 2017 through 2021 that “key accounts were not reconciled.”
Catering Expenditures Made Outside of Policy
A third issue the report pointed to involves County Manager Eric Evans.
The audit report claims Evans “overrode” the county’s purchasing policy when he “purchased catering services totaling $5,669. The catering services were from three separate luncheon events, two held in 2018 and another in 2019.
In making these purchases, the audit states he “disregarded” a county policy. The purchasing policy, the OSA said, requires all purchases between $1,000 and $4,999 to have an approved purchase order and three verbal quotes.
Evans did admit to investigators that he was aware of the County’s purchasing policy at the time.
The final points made in the report included a discovery of $21,983 that was overpaid across 12 employees from January 2020 through December 2021.
These overpayments came from four different situations — four remained on payroll after their last day, six were paid for an incorrect number of hours worked in their last month with the county, one employee was paid unearned holiday pay and another had exceeded the maximum annual leave allowed by the county.
These findings came after examining 198 employees that separated from the county between January 2020 and December 2021.
Paying Insurance Costs for Former Staff
Further, the investigation also found that just more than $100,088 was paid in insurance costs for former county employees.
The County paid these insurance costs because the former Human Resources Directors “did not notify the insurance provider that the employees had separated from County employment.”
Response from Edgecombe County, State Auditor
In an 8-page response to the report, Edgecombe County officials said it “takes these matters seriously.” In fact, on its first page, the county said “staff have addressed all of the issues raised in your report.”
Further, the county’s statement said the report is an opportunity to “show that Edgecombe County is in very good financial standing and is a committed steward of its citizens’ fiscal resources.”
State Auditor Beth Wood’s response is also in the full audit report. In it, she cites statements made by the county and addresses them as “misleading,” “irrelevant” and “not true,” among other descriptions.