Unresolved issues: Audit of DA and elections office reveals errors

Errors discovered in a routine county audit of the offices of Hays County’s District Attorney Wes Mau and Elections Administrator Jennifer Anderson have been corrected, Hays County Commissioners and County Judge Ruben Becerra were told at their Nov. 26 meeting.

Mau, who took office in 2015, said the errors occurred prior to his administration, and that steps have been taken to correct the problem. Anderson’s remarks were similar, and both said they expect their departments to be on better footing in the future.

In the DA’s office, the audit found “internal control weaknesses” consisting of “multiple clerical errors, disbursement shortages and overages and untimely disposition of forfeited funds.”

Mau admitted that after he was elected, “it became clear our forfeiture accounts were not moving forward,” but instead, “languishing.”

He said he began an effort to “get caught up” and make sure the books were in order, and found that “accounting over the years had not been adequate.” He said disbursements were erratic and records did not show the resolution of some cases that had been resolved. Office Administrator Emily Sierra “spent months with the county auditor attempting to find all the cases that were resolved prior to my taking office,” he said, adding that multiple errors were discovered.

They included, he said, some cases that dated back as far as 2001 that were not resolved until early this year. “We took care of that after we got the books straightened out,” he said, adding that the “upside” of the audit was it “brought to light a number of things we needed to be doing.” One fix he mentioned was putting disbursements on a schedule of once every other month. “We’re not getting behind,” he said. “We’re doing it six times a year.”

In a formal response to the audit, Mau wrote that his office has “put procedures in place” to avoid issues from recurring, noting that notices of seizures, judgments and disbursements all must be approved by an office manager and a prosecutor.

Anderson, who took office in 2017, said she became aware of some of the problems the audit encountered before it was conducted, and has already initiated corrective actions. Other things, she said, the audit helped her to identify.

Specifically, the audit found insufficient segregation of duties in the Elections Office as well as the lack of a “written cash handling procedures manual.” In her written response, Anderson said she has implemented procedures that all office staff are now following, and that a copy of the manual has been provided to the office of the auditor.

Responding to the auditor’s discovery that some required information was missing from receipts, Anderson said she has instructed staff to make sure to include all that information that is required and that she has also “implemented a daily review process that ensures information showing proper receipt.”

The audit also found inadequate safeguarding of the receipt book, improperly billed election invoices, contracts that had not been updated to include current fees and improper calculation of pay for election workers.

Regarding the latter, Anderson said election workers now punch in and out instead of manually keeping track of hours worked. “We have updated our fee schedule,” she said, “and we are working with the treasurer’s office” to make sure the procedures that have been implemented are adequate.

The meeting was held in Courtroom 10 of the Hays County Government Center, as work to upgrade audio/visual equipment is still ongoing in the regular meeting location on the third floor of the historic Hays County Courthouse in downtown San Marcos.

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