After an employee stole nearly $85,000 in public funds from the Webster Parish Office of Community Services, the office has beefed up its policies and procedures to prevent such an event from recurring.

That’s according to the audit that was released by the Louisiana Legislative Auditor’s office recently. While OCS still has findings, most are related to that one incident in which Kristy Pietsch pleaded guilty to theft and was ordered to pay restitution.

Auditors with Allen, Green and Williamson CPA, found in their inspection that blank checks had been used out of sequence and some checks on a “destroyed check form” were also used. In the management’s response, OCS Executive Director Mary Whitaker said the office has implemented procedures to make sure theft doesn’t happen again.

“Management concurs with the condition found,” she wrote in her response. “Management has taken aggressive actions to strengthen internal controls over blank checks, voided checks and spoiled checks. The external CPA obtained original bank statements and reconciled all bank accounts for the 2016 year. Accounting errors detected during the reconciliations were noted and corrected.”

OCS is now using an external CPA to reconcile bank statements and consult with them to make sure separation of duties is adequate and to strengthen internal controls.

This was a finding that went back to 2015, and auditors noted policies had been written and implemented to strengthen “controls over blank check stock.” The bank account in question was closed and all remaining checks were stamped “VOID.” The finding has been considered partially cleared.

They received an unqualified opinion on their audit, and their financial statements were presented fairly, auditors said.
“There were no instances of noncompliance considered to be material, as defined by the Government Auditing Standards, to the basic financial statements,” according to the report.

Their net position increased by about $39,000, or about 3 percent over 2015. Their total general and program revenues totaled about $4.2 million in 2016, an increase of about $35,000 from 2015.

“A portion of the general increase is attributed to the receipt of insurance proceeds of over $57,000 related to the claim filed to recover losses from the theft reported in the prior year,” auditors said. “Although the total general and program revenues increased, there was an overall decrease in federal funding of approximately $131,000. The federal funding for various programs noted increases in the funding of the LIHEAP and food programs of approximately $39,000 and $146,000, respectively, with decreases in the total funding of Head Start, Transportation and Community Services programs exceeding $316,000.”

Expenses for the year totaled $4.2 million, including depreciation expense. Expenses for 2015 were about $4.6 million, showing a decrease for 2016 by $426,519. Auditors said the largest decrease was in office and other supplies, and fleet and liability insurance.

Auditors said 2015’s expenses were higher because it included about $272,000 in disallowed costs related to the Head Start program.

Whitaker’s salary rounds out to about $50,000, which includes her salary of $48,888 and benefits.

The Office of Community Services is a component of the Webster Parish Police Jury but is audited separately.