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Oversight problems leads Missouri auditor to give Ste. Genevieve County ‘poor’ rating

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(The Center Square) – A whistleblower complaint from Ste. Genevieve County led to an audit and rating of “poor” by Republican Missouri Auditor Scott Fitzpatrick.

The audit report, published Wednesday, found problems with former Public Administrator Robin Naeger executing annual settlements, disbursements, bank reconciliations and electronic data security. After receiving a complaint about fiscal management through Fitzpatrick’s whistleblower hotline, an audit was conducted and was primarily focused on financial control and legal compliance issues during the first quarter of 2021. Disbursements worth $2,724 weren’t accurately documented for the county’s wards.

“As the former public administrator was responsible for as many as 52 wards and more than three-quarters of a million dollars of their assets, it was important that she have proper internal controls in place to guard against mismanagement,” Fitzpatrick said in a statement announcing the audit results. “Unfortunately, that didn’t happen and our report points out the deficiencies that existed in an office that failed to operate in an efficient and accountable fashion. Thankfully the current public administrator has worked in good faith with our audit team to address these shortcomings and has already made significant progress to implement our recommendations.”

The audit found Naeger didn’t file annual settlements on time.

“Nearly every time a settlement was late, it was because I was waiting for information/documentation from a facility or caseworker,” Naeger responded in the audit. “It was COVID. For most of the first year, I was not allowed in many facilities due to their right to restrict access when they had outbreaks. They were nearly all short-staffed and unable to respond to my requests for documentation and receipt slips in a timely manner. No one is at fault here, that was life with the pandemic. Chaos. Nothing working as it should.”

The audit found Naeger failed to retain adequate supporting documentation for disbursements, totaling $2,724, from seven of 29 ward accounts.

The “poor” rating indicates significant operations improvements are needed. It’s the lowest of four ratings provided by the auditor. The rating also reflects numerous findings requiring immediate attention or a response indicating the recommendations won’t be implemented.

Amanda Kuehn, the current public administrator of Ste. Genevieve County, responded in agreement to all of the audit’s findings, including working with the county’s information technology department to “limit the use of shared usernames and passwords as much as possible.”

“In addition,” Kuehn wrote, I have set a reminder on my computer to change my password every 90 days.”

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