By Keeli Parkey

The Tennessee Comptroller’s Office announced last week that Unicoi County has received a clean audit report for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2017. This is the second consecutive year the county had no findings on its annual audit.

“A clean audit is a positive sign that a county government in on track,” said Comptroller Justin P. Wilson. “I commend all of the elected officials, leaders, and county staff who have committed to a well-run government. This is an accomplishment worth celebrating.”

Unicoi County joined Bedford, Franklin, Gibson, Giles, Marshall, Rutherford and Tipton counties as governments with no weaknesses or deficiencies in operations during the most recent fiscal year examined by state auditors, according to a press release from the Tennessee Comptroller’s Office.

“These audits each revealed a strong system that allows for accurate financial reporting and clear checks and balances that help protect taxpayer money,” the press release stated. “The residents of these counties should be encouraged that county leaders and elected officials are taking their responsibilities seriously.”

This second consecutive clean audit is something for officeholders, county employees and citizens to take pride in, according to a county official.

“It makes you proud. It’s not an easy process,” Unicoi County Mayor Greg Lynch said. “It takes everyone working together to make it happen.”

Lynch said state auditors examine the operations of each office found in the Unicoi County Courthouse, as well as the Unicoi County Highway Department and the Unicoi County School System. Each office or department has its own rules and regulations it must abide by. These are checked by the auditors for compliance.

“It is a very thorough process,” Lynch said of the audit. “The auditors check for procedural details. They check how money is coming in and they track the process until the money is spent. They make sure the money is spent in a way that conforms to state or federal regulations. The auditors also check how payroll is handled. They check grants that come into the county and make sure that grant rules and regulations are adhered to.”

Lynch credited the efforts of staff in his office, county officeholders and county employees working together to abide by the accounting laws of the state.

“It is pretty complex,” he added. “I don’t think most people don’t know how complex county government is and how important it is that there is cooperation between the offices. Everyone has to be on point.”

Lynch said a clean audit is more than just a pat on the back for the county from the state as clean audits can play a factor in the county’s financial standing. A clean audit also helps protect the county government from liability.

“A clean audit is not just a trophy to put up on your shelf,” he added. “It helps if, for example the county has to borrow money again, a clean audit will mean a lot on the county’s bond rating. I also think it proves to our taxpayers that we are being good stewards of their money.”

The clean audit is the result of vigilance by all the officeholders and employees involved, Lynch also said. Officials and their employees will check with the County Technical Advisory Service (CTAS), our county attorney and even the Tennessee Comptroller’s Office and ask questions about procedures in an effort to ensure they are in compliance.

“For every dollar spent there is a procedure for it and that procedure has to be followed,” Lynch said. “We have a lot of resources. We have a lot of people working hard. Every officeholder and their employees can be proud of this. I’m especially proud of my office staff. It’s a big deal for everyone.”

Unicoi County’s audit report can be found online at http://www.comptroller.tn.gov/la/.