State recommends additional changes

Okanogan County made significant improvements in how staff handled money at the county fair and fairgrounds in 2017, with no indication that any funds were inadequately tracked or lost. But the state auditor still wants to see more rigorous written policies and procedures.

The assessment of procedures at the Okanogan County Fairgrounds in 2017 was reported in an audit and management letter issued last week by the Washington State Auditor.

In the management letter, the auditors said the county lacked sufficient policies to provide guidance over fairground operations. Specifically, the auditors were concerned that the same individuals take in money and prepare deposits, without adequate oversight.

The auditors were also concerned that fairgrounds staff can’t confirm that all campers have paid, since campers can use self-registration boxes but there isn’t a procedure to make sure all occupied campsites are paid for.

Still, compared to 2016, when auditors found that the county couldn’t account for more than $5,000 in ticket sales and facility rentals, the county has improved its procedures, said Kathleen Lince, assistant audit manager with the Washington State Auditor.

A management letter is used for the intermediate level of three levels of concern by auditors. Last year, the deficiencies were reported in a finding, the most serious level.

The auditors found no loss of funds in 2017, but best practices prescribe the segregation of duties so that the same person doesn’t collect funds, fill out a deposit slip, and deliver the money to the county treasurer or the bank. Following that protocol would minimize the risk that someone could pocket the money, said Lince.

It wasn’t clear if the county has someone patrolling the campground to be sure that campsite fees have been collected, said Lince.

Corrected procedure

The county corrected another deficiency last year by eliminating all credit cards used at the fair, said Lince. In 2016, the county was cited for allowing volunteers to use county credit accounts to make purchases, but because receipts and invoices weren’t signed, it was impossible to track the purchases. In that year, the auditors also found receipts for $54,000 that couldn’t be reconciled, meaning they couldn’t tell if there had been additional losses.

Since the last audit, the county has updated the fee schedule for rentals and had consistently charged the approved rates. The commissioners also adopted specific criteria for waivers, which now require complete documentation of financial need or infirmity, said Lince.

In last year’s review, auditors had found that the fee schedule wasn’t always followed. It appeared that commissioners may have waived fees in some instances, although there wasn’t adequate documentation to know if this had occurred, said the auditors. The county has also improved oversight of fairgrounds business in the treasurer’s office.

After 2016, the county hired a full-time, year-round manager who is responsible for internal controls, budgeting and maintenance at the fairgrounds, said Cari Hall, finance manager for Okanogan County. The auditors recognized that the county has implemented procedures to address the deficiencies noted in 2016, but want to see them in writing, she said.

The auditors will look at how these matters were handled in the 2018 season in an audit conducted next summer, said Lince.