DUANESBURG — The town of Duanesburg’s accounting records were unreliable and not accurately kept during 2019, according to a newly released audit from state Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli’s office.
The audit, which covered a 13-month period from January 2019 to January 2020, found that $590,808 in revenue and $55,182 weren’t recorded in the town’s books, that accounting records weren’t reconciled with bank statements, and that town books overstated the town’s bank balances by more than $3 million.
The audit found no misappropriation or malfeasance, though, and town officials said they began working to address the problems before the audit was even finished in late fall.
“There’s no money missing, no theft — it was just sloppy bookkeeping at the end of the day,” said Town Supervisor Roger D. Tidball.
At the time the town had two part-time bookkeepers, and he said the town has since parted ways with both of them, and is now using a financial services firm in place of a town employee bookkeeper.
Tidball, who was first elected in 2013 and is retiring later this year, said that after his first couple of years in office he started to become aware of late payments, unpaid bills and similar issues, but the Town Board initially believed the issues could be addressed internally.
“We knew there were issues, but then there were other issues we didn’t know about until the auditor came in,” he said on Wednesday.
Duanesburg, at the rural western edge of Schenectady County, has a population of about 6,200 and a town budget of $3.6 million. At least one resident sent a complaint to the state Comptroller’s Office, helping prompt the audit.
Between seven town bank accounts, including three for special sewer districts, the audit found that town books showed a combined balance of $5.3 million, when the actual balance was $2.3 million.
The audit said it is the town supervisor’s responsibility to ensure the town’s accounting records and reports are complete, accurate, and up-to-date, and found that that did not happen under Tidball. In fact, it said town books weren’t reconciled with any of the town’s seven bank account monthly statements at any time during the audited period.
The audit found that the Town Board did not always receive monthly financial reports, and when it did receive reports, the information wasn’t accurate.
“As a result, the board’s ability to monitor the town’s financial affairs, accurately assess the town’s financial condition and make sound financial decisions may be compromised,” an audit summary states.
The auditors recommended the town develop policies and procedures to ensure accurate records are maintained, complete bank reconciliations in a timely manner, and provide timely and accurate reports to the Town Board.
In a written response included in the audit, Tidball noted that the town recognized the problems, and hired an independent accounting firm to audit and reconcile town books starting in January 2020, at the very end of the period covered by the audit. The firm did a risk assessment to see where town financial controls were weak, and will conduct monthly reconciliations and account reviews to ensure their accuracy.
“A proactive plan is being implemented to enhance internal controls, a process that began prior to OSC’s review,” his response concluded.
“A lot of times, it was just stuff wasn’t being written down,” Tidball said on Wednesday. “We put a lot of those things in place as they were telling us what we needed to do.”