A state audit report on the district clerk of court offices raises questions about several procedures and makes recommendations on how to improve their operations.

Deputy State Auditor Andy Nielson says the concerns centered on the segregation of duties in the offices. “We also made some comments to strengthen controls over cash receipts, cash disbursements and financial reporting,” Nielson says. Nielson says many of these issues are not new and it is an issue with the size of staff.

“In some cases it’s just that they’re small enough that they don’t have enough redundancy to accomplish those things — and obviously you’re not going to hire individuals just for segregation of duties — so sometimes you have to live with those,” Nielson says. He says the Judicial Branch which oversees the 99 county offices is trying to address the concerns, but it is important to keep detailing them each year in the audit.

“The reason why we keep commenting on those items is that it is something that management needs to be aware of so that they are doing some other procedures to be able to make sure that there aren’t some things that’re going on behind the scenes,” Nielson says.

Nielson says a good example is a program used to delete case files. “The significance there is there are some employees who have access to a case delete program,” Nielson says, “The reason why that is dangerous is if someone were to want to hide something — basically all they have to do is delete the case and there is no backup — it’s just gone.” Nielson says it’s again a case where some offices don’t have enough employees to follow through on policies requiring a written order to delete a case.

Nielson says the small size of some clerk of courts offices will continue to be an issue that has to be addressed. He says small cities run into many of the same problems. “It does put more onus on the management of the city — or in this case the judicial districts — to be able to follow up and make sure that the things that are supposed to work do work,” according to Nielson. “The Judicial Department does have a good internal audit presence and I know that they work on things as well. And they are using personnel from different clerks offices to review reconciliation and those types of thing. So, they do have independent people working on reconciliation.”

You can see a copy of the audit here: https://www.auditor.iowa.gov/reports/54303/reportFile/embed