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Politics & Government

Cash Management at Pittsburgh Bureau of Animal Control Found Lacking

As part of a series of audits of departments within the city of Pittsburgh, Controller Michael Lamb has released a report on the Bureau of Animal Control. It found that the department’s cash management practices could lead to misappropriation of funds and a lack of ability to detect such a problem.

“Basic record keeping, bookkeeping type problems are what we’ve seen,” Lamb said. “We have not suggested that there’s been theft. What we’re suggesting is that we need a better system of record keeping.”

There are 10 findings total:

  • Checks not restrictively endorsed upon receipt
  • Inadequate record keeping practices
  • Inadequate receipt procedures
  • Record of payments received not prepared
  • Cash payments
  • Lack of control over return of trap deposit
  • Missing/incorrect statistical data
  • Reconciliations not performed
  • Utilization of mobile payment devices
  • Periodic review

The controller also issued recommendations for each of the issues.
“First off, when you’re receiving a check, we want that check immediately stamped ‘for deposit only,’ endorsed, so that endorsement isn’t languishing out there, you don’t want unendorsed checks floating around anywhere,” Lamb said. “We do want them to investigate ways of minimizing cash.”

Lamb said minimizing cash could achieved through new technology allowing animal control officers to accept credit card payments for animal licenses and other fees. Other recommendations include improving record keeping practices by, among other things, requiring payments collected to be put onto a spreadsheet; conducting periodic reviews of the bureau’s operations; and periodically reconcile bureau records of payments to validated deposit records from the treasurer’s office.

According the controller’s officer, the Bureau of Animal Control took in $5,867 in 2012.

“At the end of the day we’re not talking huge amounts of money here, but we are talking public money here so it’s important that we have the best control on it that we can,” said Lamb.

Though this audit looked specifically at animal control, Lamb said similar findings keep popping up in his office’s citywide audit.

“Whether we’re talking about animal control, whether we’re talking about the tennis program, whether we’re talking about the senior centers, any of those areas where we see small amounts of cash being handled in the city we have these similar kinds of problems,” he said.

Animal Control Supervisor Gerald Akrie issued a written response to the audit. It stated “the recommendations made are received and will be used to motivate an update for record keeping ... all recommendations that will enhance this department are welcome.”

Lamb’s office has been auditing various city departments and is working alongside a larger by forensic auditor Gleason and Associates. That firm was hired by the Intergovernmental Cooperation Authority to look into city finances, that audit is expected sometime this fall.