Checks Without Balances

The state Supreme Court isn’t so good at keeping track of its cash, the auditor says.

Are you looking for a great embezzlement opportunity? The Washington Supreme Court may have an opening for you in its mailroom. The judicial branch of any government is usually the last branch you'd expect to be the subject of a somewhat embarrassing report by the state auditor. And yet, in a just-released audit, Brian Sonntag's office rapped the state Supreme Court on the knuckles for lackadaisical management of the office books. Even the smallest state office is required to institute a system of internal oversight over its financial accounts. But despite prior urgings, the Court has yet to institute those checks. As a result, the Court can't be sure that all the money taken in was actually deposited. "We attempted to reconcile the expected revenue to actual revenue deposited by theCourt," reads the report. "We were unable to match the number and type of cases filed and recorded in the Court's case management system to the receipts posted in the accounting system." Courtesy of the state auditor, here's the full list of reasons why your local bait shop has a more stringent system of accounting than the Supreme Court: • The Court does not have a system in place to estimate expected revenue. • No one reconciles expected revenue, cases opened in the Court's docket system, and money deposited. • No one reconciles the cash-receipt book and mail log with the deposits. • Duties are not adequately segregated. The person responsible for making the deposit also has access to the accounting system. • The Court does not record all incoming revenue. • The Court does not consistently record in the receipt book all cash received over-the-counter. • A page had been removed from the receipt book. • Only one person opens the mail. • The deposit detail (i.e., mail log) includes checks that are not actually being deposited. Not being the most money-generating state office, the Court brings in only about $62,000 in revenue each year. Much of that comes from providing copies of legal documents and processing applications to the Washington State Bar Association. But that sum, reminds the auditors, is public money. And as you might have heard, there's a wee shortage of it these days.

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