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Audit of Hampshire Sheriff’s office: sound accounting

NORTHAMPTON — A state audit of the Hampshire Sheriff’s Office released this month recommended areas for improvements in its financial record-keeping, but largely found accurate records and no evidence of malfeasance.

The audit also found areas in which the sheriff’s office has improved its financial operations. The department operates on a $13.1 million.

The state audit was the first for the sheriff’s office in five years, covering the period from July 1, 2012 to Dec. 31, 2013. The audit was conducted at the request of the Hampshire Sheriff’s Office, which must be audited every three years to stay accredited with the American Correctional Association, said Maureen Callahan, chief financial officer at the Hampshire Sheriff’s Office.

“We’re really thrilled with it,” Callahan said of the audit. “I’m really proud of the finance department. It’s run pretty tightly.” Callahan said two state auditors working full-time spent five weeks combing through the sheriff’s office’s financial records and internal policies. They looked at spending, payroll, procurement, inventory tracking, and reviewed its inmate custodial and benefit funds, among other areas.

“They were very, very thorough,” Callahan said of the auditors. “It’s always nerve-racking to go through an audit that thorough.”

“There really weren’t any surprises,” said Deputy Superintendent Patrick Cahillane.

Although the audit found that the office maintained accurate financial records and made improvements since its last review in 2009, State Auditor Suzanne M. Bump’s staff recommended the sheriff’s office improve its segregation of duties for staff who track and reconcile accounts for its inmate benefit and custodial funds and inventory records.

The inmate benefits and custodial funds are assets held in trust for the benefit of inmates as well as individual inmates’ funds. The audit found two instances within the inmate custodial fund where no segregation of duties existed for reconciling bank statements and writing checks, instances that could lead to loss or misuse of funds.

The review also found that records were not retained for the monthly tracking of the inmate benefit fund during the audit period, which could make the funds “vulnerable to loss, theft and misuse,” according to the audit.

The sheriff’s office said the two instances identified reflect the small size of its financial department staff and assured the state auditor that it would properly address the matter. It also began printing and retaining its monthly bank statements in February 2014 for its inmate benefit fund so that they are on file and available for future audits.

Callahan said she reviews the bank statements after they are reconciled by staff to ensure that inmate benefit funds are not in jeopardy of being lost or misused, but she added, “it’s a good idea to keep back up (records).”

The Hampshire Sheriff’s Office, which operates on an approximately $13.1 million budget and is the custodian of assets held in trust for inmates, oversees the Hampshire jail, house of correction, pre-release center, and community corrections center on Rocky Hill Road.

Overseen by longtime Sheriff Robert J. Garvey, the office employs about 182 people and has an inmate capacity of 287. At the time of the audit, the office had an average of 258 inmates.

Staff writer Dan Crowley can be reached at dcrowley@gazettenet.com.

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