Cannon County was the recipient of some good news recently in the form of its cleanest state audit ever.
"This is the best audit we've had in 20 years," County Executive Mike Gannon said. "We're very pleased, very pleased. I am very proud of our audit. All of our county officials deserve credit, especially our Audit Committee."
The audit was conducted by the Tennessee State Comptrollers Office for the year ended June 30. It concluded with four minor findings. "One of the findings has already been corrected." Gannon said.
Past audits revealed as many as 21 findings. "Last year was the best, to date, with only five findings," he said.
Over the last few years, state auditing procedures have tightened. "They are much stricter now," he said.
"I want to give the credit for this audit to the county's office holders, but one important tool we've had is the county Audit Committee. They have been a blessing to us," Gannon explained.
"As long as the right people are chosen for the Audit Committee, that group will always be a blessing to our county," he said.
Instead of being adversities, the Audit Committee decided to have a positive approach. It was like "how can we help you," Gannon said.
Typically, past audit problems were due to confusion instead of misdeeds,
"All our county officials want to do the best job humanly possible and the Audit Committee has given us the tools to do that," Gannon said. "I just can't say enough about that."
The state auditing process grew tougher with the appointment of Justin P. Wilson as state comptroller.
The Comptroller of the Treasury is a constitutional officer elected by a joint vote of both Houses of the General Assembly for a two-year term. The Comptroller's duties include the auditing of state and local governments.
"They are stricter now and, at first, some of their recommendations seemed silly. For example they stress segregation of duties among county employees," he said.
That can be difficult for counties as small as Cannon, but once those changes are made confusion is reduced and accuracy improved, Gannon said.
Meanwhile, Cannon County government needs to keep pushing for perfection.
"This audit report was a much improved audit. You would like to have a perfect audit, but as long as you can whittle down the findings you are making improvement," said County Commissioner Glenn Steakley, former Audit Committee chairman.
The Audit Committee, while it doesn't have any actual power, provides an outside perspective to fiscal issues facing Cannon County,
"What we did is work with county officials to discover the nuts and bolts of budgetary issues. We tried to find things that were right and work them into a way of solving the deficiency," Steakley said.
"You have to tweak the process," the commissioner said, "how to do this in the simplest way."
Steakley says the Audit Committee worked because of dedication and due to the right approach.
"We all agreed, at our first meeting, not to go in and alienate our county officials," he said.
The Audit Committee was established in 2011 following a tough audit with 21 findings, 13 of which were recurring, 59 incidents and a special report on the R.E.A.C.H. Program.
"My hat is off to this county's officials who are working to do the right thing," Steakley said.
"In many cases the county personnel didn't know they were doing wrong. There were no guidelines and no job descriptions," he continued.
Steakley predicted that performance will continue to improve as a new Audit Committee comes online.
"I expect them to take the Audit Committee to the next level," he said.