auditor-logoA state audit of the 99 Clerk of Court offices in Iowa shows some issues with having enough oversight of the fines and other funds that come into the offices.

The annual audit shows the funds are often handled by one person and there needs to be adequate checks on their work — especially when cash is involved. Deputy State Auditor Andy Nielsen says the administrators are working to improve the situation.

“They’ve been doing a good job of reducing the number of comments each year. Some of the comments are going to be there due to the fact that some of the clerks offices are very small and there are not enough people there to have an adequate segregation of duties,” according the Nielsen. Nielsen says it’s a matter of proper accounting techniques.

“That’s the difficulty when there’s just one or two people there. People leave for lunch, people are on vacation, etcetera. The judicial branch has done a good job of having an internal auditor take a look at some of the conciliations and those type of things. And that’s what you relay upon,” Nielsen says. One other thing the audit found was some disparity in the rate of pay used when community service is used in the place of paying a fine. The rate is supposed to be the state minimum wage, but in some cases a higher rate of pay had been assigned.

“There is a statutory rate that’s supposed to be supplied, and sometimes that gets lost in the shuffle,” Nielsen says. “And we’re just asking that they try to keep that consistent with what the law requires.” If someone was credited with a rate that was higher than the state minimum wage of $7.25 an hour, they could do less community service to pay off a fine than someone who had their time figured at the proper rate.

“You want to make sure that people are being treated consistently by applying the same hourly rate,” Nielsen says. The audit has a grid at the back of the report that checks off areas where each county needs to improve.

“I know the number of check marks in the back are down fairly substantially from the prior year, which is a good trend,” Nielsen says. “Over the last few years they have continued to identify and take care of those issue. From our standpoint — and the standpoint of the taxpayers — that’s a good thing.”

See the full audit report here:Judicial Branch Audit PDF