County audit far less than what Stenger pledged, not ‘super-duper’

To the editor:

When County Executive Steve Stenger was campaigning for county executive, he promised a “top-to-bottom forensic audit” of St. Louis County government — and he promised it would be done in his first 100 days.

Stenger mentioned the audit in the Oct. 23, 2013, edition of the Call and numerous other times for more than a year leading up to the election. A daily newspaper called it the “centerpiece promise” of his campaign. Stenger was quoted as saying the audit would look at problems with every vendor, department, policy and procedure in St. Louis County government. The implication was clear — vote for Steve Stenger and you will see a super-duper audit that will sniff out any wasteful spending or wrongdoing.

On Dec. 29, with County Executive Stenger being in office a few days short of a year, the audit was finally released. It took much longer than the promised 100 days and it wasn’t a forensic audit, which is a more intense and thorough audit. The big finding was $10.9 million of possible duplicate payments; the auditors couldn’t say for sure. Few of the findings were definitive.

As stated on the last page of the audit: “Recognizing that our review was made on a test basis, you will appreciate that reliance must be placed on adequate methods of internal checks and controls as your principal safeguard against errors or fraud, if any, which a test examination may not necessarily disclose.”

In other words, there could be crooked dealings going on — just like in the county health department a few years ago — and this audit might not have caught them. So much for the super-duper audit. The $140,000 audit may turn out to be useful in some ways, but it was not what Steve Stenger promised. There are still questions whether St. Louis County government has proper financial controls and safeguards in place.