A report issued by the State Auditor’s Office finds some issues with oversight and the handling of fees by the county clerks in the district court offices across the state. But Deputy State Auditor Andy Nielson says the report overall is a positive one.
“Every year we do a review of all 99 county clerks of court as required by the Code of Iowa, and while this year there continues to be some comments regarding segregation of duties and some items with other accounting procedures, there has been improvement over the prior year,” according toe Nielson.
One of the ongoing issues is ensuring that the same person that takes in money for fines and fees isn’t the same person who is doing the bookwork and making deposits. Nielson says it’s usually an issue in the smaller more rural counties. “Some of the clerk’s offices only have two or three people in them and it’s very difficult to segregate duties efficiently,” Nielson says. “They are taking steps to utilize other clerk’s offices to for such things as bank reconciliations and things like that.”
The clerks can have their counterparts in a nearby county go over the records to ensure everything is being handled properly. Nielson says it’s also getting easier with the use of electronic records to have a clerk in one county use employees from another county to check their financial statements without any travel involved.
The offices handle the activities of the civil, probate, criminal, juvenile, traffic, child support and small claims for the courts. They also collect and deposit and pay out all the fees and other monies for the district court. Nielson says the nature of the operations makes it important to have the proper oversight. “Whenever there is a lot of cash being transacted as opposed to checks and credit cards, there’s obviously more risk there, and that’s where the segregation of duties is extremely important and that’s why we focus a lot on that,” Nielson says.
The clerk of courts offices went through a period where they had reduced staffing and hours due to budget issues, and Nielson says they are now benefiting from more funding. “I think they’ve been restored to a little bit closer to normal staffing and that will certainly help with the segregation of duties issues,” according to Nielson. Nielson says the State Auditors Office provides training to the clerks in handling these types of issues and it’s good to see fewer problems in this audit.
Here’s the full audit report: Clerks of Court audit PDF