More oversight, changes needed in county retirement plan and benefits, watchdog finds

view original post

The county’s retirement plans and health benefit trust fund had multiple problems, according to the county inspector general, who recommended ideas for better oversight.

According to the report, the inspector general audited the county’s employee retirement plans and consolidated retiree health benefits trust because of complaints the office received between 2017 to 2020 “alleging a potential lack of internal controls.” 

The audit focused on those internal controls, but not “investment strategies, individual investments, the County’s investment portfolio, or investment decisions.”

The report said boards that oversee the retirement plans and trust funds failed to follow county policies involving expense reimbursements, invoice payments and purchasing card transactions. More specifically, the audit found that:

  • Expense reports were not always submitted in a timely fashion
  • Invoices lacked evidence concerning the receipt of services and approvals
  • A purchasing card log was not maintained as required
  • Purchasing card transactions were not always approved in the appropriate county payment system
  • Separating people’s duties concerning purchasing card management was not adequate, leading to a greater risk of errors

The inspector general report recommended:

  • Expense reports should be submitted within 30 days from the end of a business trip or when other business expenses are incurred. 
  • Ensure county investment staff members are trained on accounts payable policy requirements, concerning the documentation of evidence of receiving goods and services, and approving invoices. They should also make sure all invoices have a receiver and approval signature to be consistent with county policies.
  • Make sure the county executive director’s office maintains a purchasing card log to adhere to county policy.
  • The office should make sure it is complying with purchasing card policies by having workers approve “reconciled transactions” in the county’s payment system at least once every month.
  • The county executive director’s office should establish a separation of duties concerning purchasing card transactions 

In his response letter, Chief Administrative Officer Rich Madaleno concurred with all of the recommendations.

He added that a 30-day deadline for expense reports might be difficult, depending on overall workload or other reasons, and that expenses such as business travel should still be reimbursed if the deadline isn’t met.

The inspector general’s report also suggested that county officials adopt practices to promote greater diversity, equity and inclusion in investment management hiring and other investment opportunities. It recommended that boards tasked with hiring employees start to adopt those practices.

Those boards could “develop mechanisms to proactively encourage and inform businesses owned by women, minorities and people with disabilities of opportunities to conduct business on behalf of the trust funds” in the county, the report stated.

Steve Bohnel can be reached at steve.bohnel@bethesdamagazine.com