no County moves to protect its own finances
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County moves to protect its own finances
November 19, 2012, 05:00 AM Daily Journal Staff Report
Spurred by a year of mismanagement and alleged embezzlement at several special districts, Supervisor Dave Pine is asking his colleagues to pony up more than a quarter-million dollars to protect the county’s own finances.

Pine will ask the Board of Supervisors Tuesday to use $262,600 to establish auditing and whistleblowing guidelines along with a handful of other recommendations aimed at keeping the county’s books and workers squeaky clean. Ongoing costs of $64,000 to $69,000 annually will come back to the board at a future date.

The recommendation is in line with a 2003 civil grand jury report that recommended the board create a whistleblower process. The board followed in 2004 with a ordinance creating an anonymous method of reporting suspicions although the recommendation for Tuesday takes the idea further.

The money will by used to make reporting suspected fraud and abuse easier for employees by creating a single web-based place that consolidates all the guidelines and procedures. The proposal also calls for improving the county’s response to the reports so they are more independent and confidential.

Employees will receive ongoing training on ethics, preventing and reporting fraud and performing their own accounting control responsibilities.

Pine also recommends a one-time independent evaluation of the controller’s current internal audit practices and expanding the office’s use of analytic software to discover unusual financial activities that might point to mistakes, fraud or just weak internal controls.

Pine did not return a call for comment on the proposal but in a memo to the board notes that risk of ethics breakdowns and internal weaknesses increase as employees are required to do more with less personnel.

Organizations in the United States will lose 5 percent of their annual revenue to fraud, according to the Certified Fraud Examiners 2012 Report cited by Pine.

The goal for San Mateo County is continually improving its own framework while reminding employees of their roles in maintaining an ethical environment, Pine wrote in the report.

The initial $262,600 investment will come from non-departmental reserves.

 

The Board of Supervisors meet 9 a.m. Tuesday, Nov. 20 in Board Chambers, 400 County Government Center, Redwood City.



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