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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
News >  Pacific NW

Whitman County accounting errors create $150K shortfall

By Josh Babcock Moscow-Pullman Daily News

The Whitman County Commissioners must find a way to deal with a 2016 budget shortfall of about $150,000 that is the result of a series of recently discovered accounting errors.

The shortfall could have been much worse, as a total of about $350,000 worth of expenses were never included in the budget, but another error – in which $200,000 of transferred revenues were not recorded in the General Fund by Public Works for vehicle insurance – helped diminish the county’s deficit, Administrative Director Gary Petrovich told the Daily News on Monday.

“There was an expenses portion not included in the budget,” Petrovich said. “It had the revenue but not the expenses. It was a budget error and now we have to fix it with this first amendment.”

Commissioner Dean Kinzer said he was unsure who is responsible for the budgeting mistakes.

“Somebody missed the entry when they entered into the new budget for 2016,” he said. “I can’t tell you for sure how that got missed. Each department is supposed to review what their entries are. I can’t tell you if it was at the department level or the Auditor’s Office, to be honest with you.”

Kinzer said an estimated $295,000 worth of expenses for emergency services accounted for the bulk of the recently discovered deficit, but there were some other smaller and forgotten line items that also helped jack up the sum.

In an effort to close the remaining gap, the commissioners will likely pull $76,000 from the Operating Contingency Fund – a reserve created by Petrovich in 2015 for unexpected shortages – and another $75,000 from increased sales tax projections. The commissioners will vote on the measure Monday.

Petrovich said many entities have accounting systems that would flag such errors, but Whitman County doesn’t.

Petrovich said some of the county’s departments can have more than 3 million expenditures.

“It’s a large animal,” Petrovich said. “It’s not as simple as saying you just missed something.”

The financial shortfall is just one of the many financial troubles Whitman County has faced during the past decade.

In May 2015, a Washington State Auditor’s Office audit found the county had poor communication between county departments, lacked internal controls to provide reliable financial reporting and lacked understanding by personnel responsible for recording transactions with accounting software.

It’s been more than 10 years since Whitman County received an audit by the state that lacked any deficiencies.

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