Maryland Computer system mars accounts : LUSENET : Grassroots Information Coordination Center (GICC) : One Thread

Computer system mars accounts

By MELISSA MONTEALEGRE, Staff Writer A year after blasting financial reporting, County Auditor Teresa Sutherland said this morning the same computer system continues to botch county accounts.

Her annual audit discovered the county doesn't reconcile its backup records with its general books or keep proper track of payment to contractors.

But, in an address before a County Council work session in Annapolis, Mrs. Sutherland said controls put in place by County Controller William Brown are starting to address faulty practices in the reporting process.

"Bill Brown is doing a tremendous job of fixing some of those internal controls and deficiencies," she said.

Several of her findings mirrored those of last year, which included an $11 million debt. It was later found to be a glitch caused by a controversial computer program.

While mostly positive, the report did point out some continuing problems. One aggressive step the county has taken was splitting the county Office of Budget and Finance into separate entities.

County Executive Janet S. Owens yesterday stressed more can be done.

"The action that I took last year separating the budget and finance departments has done a lot to strengthen our financial system," she said in a prepared statement.

"We are in good financial shape. Still, we want to do better. We are aggressively working to do better."

The audit was a collaboration between the Baltimore-based accounting firm of Arthur Anderson and the county Office of the Auditor. The accounting firm signed an $83,000 contract with the county to do the work.

It found the county:

Failed to reconcile back-up records with the general books. To rectify that, the county is upgrading its One World software, a program that covers purchasing, bookkeeping, check writing, budgeting, warehouse control and inventory. A staff accountant was also hired to reconcile accounts payable and encumbrances with supporting records on a regular basis.

Improperly accumulated $4 million in money owed to creditors at year's end, which should also be resolved with the software upgrade.

Illegally collected escrow deposits on water meters used by commercial haulers, which is not permitted under County Code. The Department of Public Works is considering seeking legislation to revise the code.

To handle all problems associated with the computer system, the county also hired a three-member team made up of employees from the Office of Finance and the Office of Central Services.

The audit also reported that the county recorded a surplus of $31.5 million at the end of fiscal year 2000 on June 30.

While the undesignated fund balance will be spent on "'pay-as-you-go" projects, Mr. Brown said he expects that figure to decrease this year due to an expected economic downturn.

County Councilman Cathleen M. Vitale, R-Severna Park, said there are still problems with county financial reporting practices, but the audit is clearly an improvement over last year.

"As a whole, it was favorable and positive," Ms. Vitale said. "It showed a direct effort by Mr. Brown and his staff to correct the problems of years past."

-- Martin Thompson (, March 13, 2001


Anderson has fouled up many systems trying to get them ready for Y2K.

Department 56, in a counterlawsuit, is suing Arthur Andersen Worldwide for $6 billion, accusing it of botching a consulting project to help the firm install a new computer system and avoid possible Y2K problems.

Six months after the breakup of Arthur Andersen LLP and Andersen Consulting, a Minnesolate collectibles company has suit Arthur Andersen's parent, characterizing itself as a casualty of the two firms' feuding and claiming that it nearly collapsed as a result of a botched computer-consulting job.

COLUMBUS - State officials are reluctantly resurrecting a scrapped job-matching system due to chronic problems with Ohio Works, the online system that already has cost taxpayers $53 million.

-- spider (, March 13, 2001.

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