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Audit reveals F-F wastewater plant failed to follow agreement

FONDA — An audit completed on the Fonda-Fultonville Joint Wastewater Treatment Facility showed that the board did not act in accordance with the inter-municipal agreement.

The New York state Comptroller’s Office conducted an audit on the Fonda-Fultonville Joint Wastewater Treatment Facility covering the time period of July 1, 2013 through June 30, 2019.

The purpose of the audit was to determine whether the Fonda-Fultonville Joint Wastewater Board provided adequate oversight of operations to ensure financial activity was properly recorded and reported, and money was safeguarded.

The audit showed that the board did not act in accordance with the inter-municipal agreement, did not ensure that the former chairman and former fiscal officer maintained adequate accounting records, did not provide adequate oversight over financial operations and did not approve and monitor vendor contracts.

The audit states that, “Despite each village appointing board members, the board did not hold routine monthly meetings, prepare and submit annual budgets to the villages, require the fiscal officer to prepare periodic financial reports or report the annual proceedings and results of operations to the villages. Further, the board did not maintain a complete record of its meeting minutes to document the actions and decisions made during the proceedings and ensure all actions an decisions were documented.”

According to the audit, meetings were held from June 1, 2011 to April 2016, and did not resume until March 2019.

The former fiscal officer who resigned in November 2017, did not provide any accounting records to the board or villages to account for money collected and distributed during the audit period, according to the audit. The village of Fultonville took over control over the wastewater board’s five bank accounts after the resignation of the former chairman in 2017, and the village of Fonda took over the accounting records of facility bills with the exception of payroll and dept payments in October 2018. And although both villages accounted for facility expenditures paid in their sewer funds, however, they did not prepare periodic interim reports specific to facility financial operations.

According to the audit, the fiscal officer was responsible for preparing checks and paying claims from the board’s two checking accounts.

“However, while the former fiscal officer was responsible for preparing claims for board audit, the board did not routinely meet to audit and approve claims for the payment as required by the agreement,” the audit states.

The state comptroller’s office recommends the fiscal officer maintain complete and accurate records; periodically prepare and provide financial reports including budget to actual comparisons, balance sheets, income statements, bank statements and bank reconciliations to the board; annually file the annual financial reports with OSC; ensure claims are adequately supported and submit them to the board for audit and approval before payment; and submit contracts to the board for review and approval.

Recommendations made for the board include, operate in accordance with written agreements; provide oversight of the duties performed by the fiscal officer, such as requiring written monthly financial reports, and reviewing bank statements, bank reconciliations and canceled checks; periodically request and examine the financial records maintained by the fiscal officer; audit and approve all disbursements before payments are made; review and approve all contracts; and monitor contracts to ensure related disbursements and collections are consistent with the contract terms.

In a response to the state comptroller’s office made by Fonda Mayor William Peeler and co-chair of the joint wastewater facility, plans to take includes, completing a new inter-municipal agreement; completing a new sludge contract and management; grant monitoring and completion; creating an annual wast treatment budget; maintaining accounting records; and fiscal monitoring.

Also responding to the was the village of Fultonville stating the agree with the recommendations made by the comptroller’s office.

“And, due to this lack of oversight the facility operated under a chairman and fiscal officer who failed to comply and abide by the most basic financial and municipal procedures,” the response states. “The facility operated in such a manner that included, but was not limited to absence of regular meetings, failure to provide adequate financial reports to the board and to the comptroller’s office.”

Following the recommendations made by the comptroller’s office, both village boards have approved a new municipal agreement; both facility board and the boards of both municipalities will require monthly financial reports per the new agreement; the facility board at monthly meetings, with oversight by both municipality boards, will review and audit monthly claims and approve such claims prior to any payment; the facility board, overseen by both municipalities will ensure that the bookkeeper and the chairperson communicate and file the annual financial report to OSC; and the facility board, with oversight by both municipality boards, will review and approve all contracts that are under consideration by the joint wastewater treatment facility.

The facility board will also, operate under the terms of the most current municipal agreement with oversight by the two municipality boards; complete monthly reporting of all financial documents to the facility bard and the boards of both municipalities; the fiscal officer will provide financial records, as randomly and regularly requested by either or both village boards and the facility board; no payments will be made without proper audit and approval of all disbursements; the facility board will review and approve all contracts being considered by the facility, in addition the chairperson and fiscal officer will present contracts to the village boards for review and approval; and the fiscal officer and chairperson must present all contracts to the facility board and monitor all disbursements and collections regarding such approved contracts.

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