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State Audit: Sloppy Records and Credit Card Abuse

A report by the state auditor general criticized the
body governing the Florida clerks of courts for sloppy record keeping and improper use of organization credit cards.

The Florida Clerks of Court Operations Corporation is a Legislature-created body that recommends changes related to court-related fines, fees, and other costs, develops performance measures and standards and conducts clerk education programs.

But Florida Auditor General David Martin wrote in a report that the corporation has been falling short. The audit, conducted from July 2, 2008 to June 30, 2009, details five findings against the clerks.

¦ CCOC did not adequately monitor revenue, expenditures, and remittance information reported by the clerks in monthly tracking reports to ensure that money due to the state was remitted accurately and in a timely way.

¦ Although the accuracy of revenue projections used in clerks' proposed budgets had improved over previous audits, budgeted expenditures exceeded actual expenditures by more than 10 percent, ranging from 10.09 to 28.18 percent, for 26 clerks.

¦ Several clerks reported incomplete or inconsistent performance measure data and, although CCOC investigated the differences, it did not require corrected reports.

¦ Contracts were entered into without the use of a competitive selection process for two consultants. Potential payments on these contracts totaled $505,610, although only $12,122 has been paid through January 2009.

¦ Instances were noted where employees used CCOC credit cards for personal reasons, contrary to CCOC policy.

The record keeping of the CCOC was a major part of the audit, with auditors discovering that individual clerks offices had different records than the CCOC. The audit found, for example, that the Duval County Clerk reported that it had remitted $4.6 million to the Department of Revenue for the 2007-2008 fiscal year, but the department recorded that the clerk had remitted $2.7 million. It also found that several clerks' offices were not timely in disclosing revenues and expenditures, and then turning in revenue to the trust fund.

“While CCOC has made progress in reconciling the clerk remittances to DOR receipt records, improvement was still needed in the timeliness of the reconciliations,” Martin wrote in the report.

The CCOC in its response to the audit wrote that it is continuing to make improvements and agreed with the audit's assessment.

Martin also reported several instances of use of CCOC credit cards for personal reasons. “Examples of purchases include airline tickets for spouses, upgraded hotel rooms for family members, and personal items from Sam's Club and Lowe's,” he writes.

CCOC Executive Council Chair Howard Forman wrote in response that staff members did use the corporation credit card on a few occasions for convenience purposes, but had fully repaid the corporation. He also stated in the letter that there were two instances where the card was used by mistake, but that staff immediately corrected the mistake and made the “appropriate reimbursement.”

“CCOC staff has always taken efforts to assure they operate in a manner that saves the public dollars,” Forman wrote.

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