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Report will guide update of policies
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Forsyth County News
Forsyth County's chief financial officer said a recent internal controls study, the final version of which was presented last week, was "money well-spent."

Bill Thomas said one of the perks of Dawsonville-based Sawyer & Co.'s report, which cost the county $94,000, is the information his department can use.

"It's valuable information," Thomas said Friday. "Now we can update financial policies, purchasing policies and debt policies.

"With this study, we have a good tool to safeguard the money and assets of the county. To me, that's well worth it."

The 114-page document looked at 35 different county departments, noting 113 "significant deficiencies," or items to monitor, and four "material weaknesses," or high-risk items.

Thomas said two of the four material weaknesses have since been corrected, including a glitch in the payroll department and a lack of controls in the handling of 1-cent sales tax revenues.

The other two items involved issues within the elections office, which the county plans to invite federal officials to investigate.

Among the audit's other findings were a lack of uniform accounting procedures throughout the county, with various departments using different methods for taking in revenue.

Other issues noted in the report:

• the need for elected officials to disclose business relationships they may have with county government

• more informative financial reporting

• no definition of responsibility in financial functions of different departments

• duplication of services

• the need to trim staff in some areas.

"Now we have our arms around the internal controls of the county," Thomas said. "We can now look and see where the problems are, address and fix those."

The original contract with Sawyer & Co. was for $67,500 over a 90-day period. The contract was extended in February with the board's blessing.

Thomas said the county's willingness to "open ourselves up to criticism voluntarily" by hiring Sawyer & Co. to conduct the audit was unique.

"This hasn't been done in many governments," Thomas said. "We said, 'Tell us what's wrong, and we'll fix it.'"

E-mail Frank Reddy at