A recent auditor general’s report of the accounts department at the Magistrate Courts revealed that the department is plagued by inconsistencies including missing checks and the modification of customers’ receipts by employees.
“During the audit, the auditors were informed that several checks were reported missing by a staff member in the accounts department,” the report noted.
It added, “The checks were not found at the time of this audit and subsequently management placed stop payments on the checks. Due to negligence, the Deposit Fund Account incurred cancellation fees of $45 per check totaling $900. An investigation was undertaken by management, which resulted in management having to prepare replacement checks.”
The report continued, “It came to the auditor’s attention from a number of concerned court personnel and private bar members that defendants of the courts were being given a myriad of sentences which included counseling as a part of a conditional discharge which necessitated remuneration.”
It also noted that customers’ receipts were being modified by employees in the accounts department.
“It came to our attention during the audit that a customer’s receipt was altered and as a result, we reviewed a sample of reports through QuickBooks analytics and noted that several customers’ payments were modified resulting in client’s payments being reduced by $1,670,” the report read.
The audit also revealed that incorrect amounts were being posted to the clients’ credit cards.
It noted there were “differences between the amounts that were paid versus the amounts posted” to the cards.
“When a client makes a payment, the expectation is that the recipient of these payments would receive the amount paid,” the report noted.
“When a cashier alters a client’s receipt, it could lead to inaccurate maintenance support payments, inaccurate arrears calculations for both civil and domestic court clients and mistrust of the court system.”
It recommended that management conduct a “comprehensive” review of clients’ payment cards to ensure that “what was paid by the client was posted to their respective payment cards”.
The report stated “all discrepancies” identified should be investigated and addressed accordingly.
“This will affirm the integrity of the process,” it noted.
“Receipt of these funds was being facilitated by the courts and accordingly, there is a concern that transparency and accountability may be lacking in this process. We recommend further investigation of the same.”
The audit also noted that revenue was not deposited to the Supreme Court’s account between February 5, 2018 and April 9, 2018.
“It was further brought to our attention that on July 2, 2018 total cash of $158.13 was deposited into the Royal Bank Main Branch and recorded in the general ledger (journal ID: DEP581),” it read.
“At the time of the audit, three deposits totaling $709.50 have not been deposited.”
As it relates to the latter figure, two customers were contacted regarding “outstanding checks which totaled $117.50”, according to the management’s response in the report.
“A check was received for $63 ($20 and $43),” it noted.
“The check for $54.50 is still pending. A total of $592 cash is still outstanding.”
The management of the department attributed some of the issues to a “shortage of staff and heavy workload during peak months”.
“The accounts section is in critical need of cashiers to cash daily,” the report noted.
“During extremely critical times when no cashiers were available. Management utilized the services of non-account officers to assist with the cashing in the accounts section.”
The report was conducted during the period of July 1, 2016 to June 30, 2018.
The purpose of the audit was “to determine whether the accounting functions” were being performed in accordance with the Financial Administration and Audit Act 2010.
It also aimed “to assess the efficiency and effectiveness of the business processes and the internal controls”.