Secret bank accounts at the Pittsburgh Bureau of Police enabled the misuse of taxpayer funds and led to the indictment of the Police Chief. While Allegheny County “off-book accounts” are not a mystery and are included in the County Controller’s Comprehensive Annual Financial Report, they do not utilize the County’s financial management system and/or bank accounts affiliated with the County Treasurer’s accounts. The total combined balance of funds in these accounts as of the end of 2012 was $21,298,426.29.
Recognizing the opportunity for abuse of such funds and pursuant to “best practices recommendations” for government accounting, Controller Wagner’s goal is to bring these accounts under the County’s accounting and banking systems if possible. In partnership with the County Manager, Allegheny County Controller Chelsa Wagner will review these accounts across departments. A full list of all off-book accounts can be found on the attached Taxpayer Alert report (PDF web link), which details those accounts that exist and the importance of taking these steps to increase accountability and public trust.
“Our goal is to be proactive to prevent waste, fraud, and abuse. Not only do these accounts create more opportunity for abuse, but many also have bank fees that exceed those paid for other county accounts,” Wagner said. “Many of these accounts carry unnecessary risk and expense.”
County Controller Chelsa Wagner has engaged the Department of Court Records, including the Civil and Family, and Wills and Orphans Divisions, and Department of Real Estate for in-depth reviews of their off-book funds.
“This initiative will give the public greater trust that their tax dollars are being spent wisely and that government departments and officials are accountable for every dollar they spend,” the County Controller stated. “We are happy to be working with the County Manager and department heads to bring greater transparency, efficiency, and accountability to these funds.”
Various departments and offices within County government hold relatively small balances in petty cash. Some of these accounts are used in departments that handle cash for transactions with constituents utilizing their services. Cash accounts in the departments of Police and Sheriff are used for activities related to public safety. In addition to bringing these cash accounts onto the County’s accounting system, Controller Wagner is working with the Administration to strengthen cash management across the County. The total balance of petty cash funds at the end of 2012 was $31,540.73.