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3-G Fire Co. must improve fiscal oversight, audit says

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GLENFIELD — The 3-G Volunteer Fire Co. is making changes after being smoked by the state comptroller’s office for having inadequate fiscal controls in place.

“We learned a lot by going through the audit,” said company President Mark F. Austin. “We’re not perfect, but we’re trying to do the best we can.”

The random audit, of which company officials were notified by letter, took issue with many department practices but did not unearth any apparent wrongdoing, Mr. Austin said.

“Controls over the Company’s financial activities were weak,” states a report from the audit, which primarily reviewed the 2011 fiscal year. “The Board failed to provide adequate guidance to those responsible for receiving and depositing cash and exercised little oversight of the Treasurer and other officials who performed these duties. Although the Company’s by-laws provide for limited controls over cash disbursements, Company officials did not comply with the by-laws and also allowed for the unmonitored use of debit cards by Company officials.”

Of the $212,114 received by the fire company in 2011, auditors were able to verify that $109,268 from fire contracts with the towns of Martinsburg and Greig and $1,924 in receipts from a state tax on insurance premiums were properly accounted for and deposited.

However, due to a lack of adequate documentation for cash receipts, company officials would be unable to verify that nearly half of their annual revenue — stemming from fundraisers, bar sales, pull tabs, letter-drive donations and other funds — was properly handled, the audit report states.

The audit also identified a discrepancy in revenue from the bar that the nonprofit company runs at its fire hall off Blue Street on the outskirts of Glenfield.

Bar sales reported and deposited by Mr. Austin, then the department’s treasurer, over a more than two-year period from January 2010 through April were $1,516 less than total sales recorded on register tapes and cash registers would indicate. He told auditors the discrepancy could be attributed to over-rings by bartenders, the report states.

Mistakes made on the electronic cash register were not always corrected, and values rung up during bartender training sessions also were never removed from the memory, Mr. Austin said.

Since the audit, the department has implemented a “whole different system” in which all errors or training tabs are noted and accounted for, he said.

Auditors also complained that beer, liquor and wine were not inventoried, that most payments were made without prior board approval and that the company did not have corresponding receipts or documentation for many payouts.

The comptroller’s office recommended that fire company directors better oversee the treasurer’s duties; conduct an annual audit; adopt written policies and procedures for handling cash; maintain documentation to establish accountability for fundraising events; better administer fire hall rental contracts; approve bills prior to payment and include supporting documentation, and either eliminate the use of debit cards or establish controls for their usage.

In a written response to the comptroller’s office, fire company officials indicated they are working to implement those recommendations.

The 3-G company in 2006 constructed the four-bay, 120-by-80-foot building on land donated by Marks Farms and moved from its old two-bay fire hall on Main Street in early 2007. The 38-member department, established in 1954, also operates a fire station in Brantingham.

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