Auditor Harmon briefs House crowd on state findings | New

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One of the first things Mike Harmon wants you to know is this: He’s not the bad guy.

“A lot of times when you say, ‘Okay, we’re the listener’ (people say) ‘I’m paying my taxes, I’m fine, stay away from me,'” he said. “I’m like ‘No, no. We are all of you listeners. We make sure government is efficient, effective and ethical.'”

Harmon is the State Auditor of the Kentucky Public Accounts and a former member of the District 54 State House of Representatives, representing Boyle and Casey Counties in Frankfort. A Republican, Harmon won his current post of incumbent President Adam Edelen in 2015 and retained it in the 2019 election.

On Thursday, he appeared at the Lake Cumberland Regional Airport for the Somerset-Pulaski County Chamber of Commerce “Business After Hours” event. After a year of doing business with Zoom’s talking heads on a computer screen, the jovial Harmon was happy to be among the real crowds in person again.

“I always like to go down this way,” Harmon told the Commonwealth Journal. “It’s important for us to go out and visit people, to make sure that people have a chance to hear about their condition, how their taxes are being spent.”

Over the past year, as COVID-19 regulations changed the way business was conducted for offices like Harmon’s here in the Commonwealth, “several sums of money… He mentioned the money of the CARES Act, which has gone to individuals and governments as well as businesses in the form of loans to ease financial hardship caused by the ramifications of the virus, and said it all came “with very little advice.”

“So the very first thing our office did, we had referrals to try to oversee the directions. We worked with the Department of Local Government, we worked with (the Kentucky Association of Counties), we worked with several groups to try to make sure that we provided… normal checks, ”he said.“ Often times people don’t realize if a county or town is getting $ 750,000 or more in any given year, they must then do what is called a “one-time audit” for that federal compliance. So we wanted to make sure everyone was trained specifically in these areas. “

He said his office has also worked to push forward legislation to make government work better, as well as help counties save money near their homes. He mentioned Senate Bill 144 in 2018, an “agreed-upon procedure” (AUP) bill, which provided that a sheriff or county clerk with a no-fault audit the previous year could request a AUP, which in one year helped participating court clerks see savings of about 65 percent by paying for audits, and for sheriffs, about 70 percent. Newer legislation will allow the Harmon office to perform a single audit to cover multiple tax settlements that would previously require separate audits.

Part of Harm’s mission to stay ethical was to tell those who worked for him when he took office that they won’t “target anyone, we’re not going to give anyone a pass, we’re just going to track data “. and just “call bullets and strikes and not try to play politics.”

Track the data, yes, but there is a lot of it, Harmon noted. “There are so many, it’s hard to quantify,” he said. “So we started doing what’s called data bulletins. So we take information that is normally available to everyone and sort of distill it into a format that they can easily see.”

Recently, he said, his office released a data bulletin regarding coronavirus relief funds, taking information from the budget director and quantifying how the money the state received was used. Kentucky received about $ 1.732 billion in total; of this amount, $ 1.599 billion went directly to the state. About $ 133 million went directly to Louisville, the state’s largest city.

Harmon encouraged people to go to auditor.ky.gov and watch some of these data bulletins to help you stay informed. People with advice on waste, fraud and misuse of funds can report it on this website or by calling 1-800-KY-ALERT.

Harmon addressed the single statewide audit, looking at the volume of a financial statement and controls as well as another volume dealing with federal compliance. In the first volume, there were 25 findings, with just over half of those dealing with state unemployment offices. This audit “made headlines,” Harmon noted,

“One of the things that was done that was actually out of federal compliance violated federal laws was that the Unemployment Insurance Bureau did what they call ‘automatic payment’ – and why is automatic payment a problem? ” Harmon asked. “Well, that was probably very well intentioned. We had a week around mid-March of last year where there were almost 50,000 new jobless claims. The following week there were probably around 113 “000 applications. A lot of people were unemployed. The businesses were closed and people were going there, so they were overwhelmed.

“Auto Pay was an attempt to try to get those checks faster,” he continued. “But what happened was they took away those key controls, and they just really paid for the traditional unemployment of just two weeks for the pandemic, they paid for it in an environment that was heavily. prone to fraud.… Now, I’m not saying every dollar donated was fraudulent, but it was paid in a fraudulent environment. “

One example – Harmon clarified that he was not saying it was a fraud but that it was an example of the problems that occurred – was a sample of 37 state employees who still had full-time jobs in the state but lost other income and claimed unemployment. Of those, 16 had received both traditional unemployment compensation and federal compensation specific to COVID-19, although they were not supposed to receive either, Harmon said.

“The reason this happened was that some of the key controls they took away (involved the question) ‘Do you have another job? “And” If you have another job, how much money do you make? ”Said Harmon. “So if they had known that, if this key control had not been taken away, they would have been rejected.”

Of this sample of 37 employees, Harmon said it also found a net overpayment of nearly $ 117,000. “Some of them were paid more than they were supposed to, a few were paid less and some of them were paid exactly as they were supposed to,” he said. declared. “… It was all (concerning), but probably the thing that worried me the most, broke my heart the most for people who are struggling to try to get unemployment, we found out that there was well over 400,000 emails that were sent to the unemployment helpline that weren’t read, they just archived them, didn’t even look at them, didn’t read them.

The second audit volume consisted of approximately 21 findings and approximately eight of these pertained to UI offices. The ones that were different from the first volume that stood out for Harmon involved 10 employment office workers who had claimed unemployment and granted their own claims even though they had been trained not to.

“We couldn’t really quantify if they had made a change to their request, but we were done, because we knew they had granted it, we referred that particular finding to the attorney general’s office as well as the attorney general’s office. ethics of the executive branch (Commission) … There were quite a few other problems, but these are the ones that stood out to us. “

Regarding Pulaski County’s financial position in the audits, Harmon said the county was doing well “for the most part. There are findings in the past and all, but it’s like anything in the past. ‘other.… There are good things and there are bad things. ” Local findings can be found on the state auditor’s website, he observed.



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