Gregory Tejeda / Post-Tribune / October 18, 2018
Gregory Tejeda is a freelance reporter for the Post-Tribune.
Marquette Park along the Gary shoreline of Lake Michigan is often thought of as one of the city’s prime assets, yet an Indiana State Board of Accounts review found that the city is not getting full collection of all the proceeds of events held at the park’s Pavilion.
The State Board of Accounts released its audit this week that found some $7,725 in cash collections from Pavilion rentals were not properly remitted to the city Controller’s office, which then would have been responsible for depositing funds into appropriate accounts.
The state audit indicates that cash collections by Pavilion officials were, “often used to purchase items for the operation of the Pavilion.”
State officials also determined that much of the problem was due to multiple officials handling the collection of Gary Parks Department receipts and had access to the collections.
“There were no management oversight procedures in place to ensure proper handling of receipts generated from Pavilion rental collections,” the audit reads.
It also affected procedures that two different individuals held the position of parks Pavilion manager during 2015 and 2016, while another served as clerk during the time period covered by this audit, which did find that on May 12, 2016, the Pavilion manager remitted $827 in cash to the city Controller’s office for deposit.
The audit indicates findings were presented to Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson, city Controller Angelia Hayes and Parks Superintendent Nathaniel George in August.
But state Accounts Board officials also said their review procedures were limited, and it is possible other receipts have yet to be discovered. “Our tests were not designed to identify all instances of non-compliance, therefore noncompliance may exist that is unidentified,” the audit reads.
Councilwoman LaVetta Sparks-Wade, D-6th, used the audit to publicly criticize city officials. She said the fact that city officials would have money not properly reported and deposited into city bank accounts is a bad practice.
She said it is particularly bad in light of another incident in which some $8.1 million was transferred from an account in the Fire Department budget for Emergency Medical Services equipment to other parts of the city budget – with more than half of that money used to cover city payroll expenses.
It is the reason, she said, she opposed having the Common Council approve a city budget for 2019 without knowing the exact amount of money that city agencies and programs would have to spend.
“I’m not comfortable with us not knowing exactly how city funds are being spent,” Sparks-Wade said. “We need to get a better grasp on our spending.”
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