(Central Square) – A Philadelphia city controller’s report says the sheriff’s city office lacked financial control, giving Sheriff Rachel Bilal carte blanche in how to spend tens of millions of dollars each year.
“The audit findings are serious and require immediate attention. They showcase deep-seated problems in the sheriff’s office, problems that Sheriff Bilal inherited from the sheriffs before her, ”said City Superintendent Rebecca Rinhart. said.
“The sheriff’s office operates outside of the checks and balances set out in the Charter of Self-Government, which seeks to protect taxpayers’ funds from mismanagement or abuse,” Rinhart said in a report.
In addition to the city’s budget funds for the Sheriff’s Office, he also manages the process of selling mortgages by court order and property tax collection and collects revenue from those sales and fees. Prior to the pandemic, the office managed about 8,000-9,000 sales a year, but it is difficult to say where that money goes and how it is spent, the report said.
“The sheriff’s office does not have a comprehensive accounting system or general ledger to track the overall balance of accounts or document complete records of financial transactions,” the report said.
It should be noted that the inspection report does not trust the figures provided by the sheriff’s office.
“We have noticed that the process of reconciling banks in the sheriff’s office is inadequate due to the lack of a fixed balance sheet that can be reconciled and therefore cannot be relied on,” the report said.
The controller’s office was essentially operating in a void, unable to see the total cost in the sheriff’s discretionary means.
For example, the sheriff’s office provided banking services to the IT and Accounting Fund, which has spent nearly $ 9.5 million since 2015, but the controller’s office was unable to determine how much money was in the account itself.
“The sheriff is unable to ensure proper control over the financial performance of his custody accounts,” the report said.
To correct these problems, the city controller wants the sheriff to set up a comprehensive accounting system to track all funds, transfer revenue from city government fees and ensure that all expenses are accounted for, reported and reviewed by the city.
In addition, the Office of the Comptroller recommends stopping the practice of using custodial funds for discretionary purposes that are not allowed by the city.