- Associated Press - Wednesday, February 15, 2017

BENTONVILLE, Ark. (AP) - A state audit has found that more than $1.1 million was taken from a Benton County travel fund over a 10-year period, county officials said.

The county this week received its 2015 audit, which was conducted by the state’s Arkansas Legislative Audit agency, the Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette (http://bit.ly/2kTeEuy ) reported.

The audit shows more than $1.1 million in disbursements from the travel fund were “undocumented and/or posted to the general ledger but not the travel log” between January 2007 and early September 2016. The audit report says “a lack of management oversight permitted these disbursements to be processed.”

“We’re bitter, we’re hurt,” Brenda Guenther, the local comptroller, said of the thefts. “There’s going to be a black eye for the county, we all know it.”

The report said a former county accounting specialist was the custodian of the travel fund. The audit alleges the former employee charged $30,037 in credit card purchases without evident business purpose from October 2015 through September 2016.

No criminal charges have been filed. An investigation also is being conducted by the Internal Revenue Service and the FBI.

County Judge Barry Moehring said changes have been made since the county was alerted to the issue by federal agencies. He said the travel cash fund has been eliminated. He also said policies have been reviewed and updated, which include requiring greater segregation of duties.

Moehring said other changes include conducting an inventory of all county assets valued at $5,000 or more, using purchase cards and ending the use of “generic” credit cards.

“Not only are we doing everything internally that we know to do, we’re getting external help,” Moehring said. “We’re taking a number of recourses, across-the-board, to increase the level of professionalism and accountability in Benton County.

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Information from: Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, http://www.nwaonline.com

Copyright © 2017 The Washington Times, LLC.

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