Audit finds Petersburg workers believe government is corrupt, fear retaliation

Posted at 8:12 PM, Sep 28, 2017
and last updated 2017-09-28 20:12:29-04

PETERSBURG, Va. – The 115- page forensic audit covers several areas of Petersburg city government, but citizens wonder if the investigation probed deeply enough.

The report covers some matters, like the theft of petty cash from the Treasurer's Office, in addition to the performance of the understaffed office.

It also delves into the perception of some city employees, who indicated they believe the local government is corrupt and that speaking out would bring retaliation.

"That's the feeling of a great number of people in this city,” said Ward One Council Member Treska Wilson Smith.

The audit takes a hard look at the process to install new water meters, with the first meter installed April 16, 2014.

The report analyzed the breakdown that followed and declared that the project was poorly planned and managed by the city's public works.

It also examines how the City Treasurer's Office functions and scrutinized two thefts from petty cash that resulted in a loss of more than $2,300.

"It's under investigation and right now you are innocent until proven guilty so we'll see how everything plays out the next few months,” said Mayor Sam Parham.

Thursday, while Brown was in his office working, he declined a request for a comment.

As for the final report itself, at least one city council member has concerns.

"I did not get the report at the same time as other council members got it," said Wilson Smith. "I only received it last night and when I did receive it, I received it from a citizen.”

The report is also critical of the "ethical tone" concerning employees and encouraged City Council and City Management to "actively reflect on how can more positively impact ethical tone.”

Auditors also determined that allegations raised in a parks report of misappropriation of more than $200,000 between 1999 and 2007 did merit a criminal investigation, but after meeting with the FBI, they determined the statute of limitations had expired.

Auditors said city employees also reported abuse of overtime and recording time off.

In the report, auditors said they applied the “Fraud Triangle” to assess the city’s risk for misconduct, fraud, waste or abuse.

After their investigation, they concluded that the city’s risk of internal misconduct, fraud, waste or abuse in Petersburg is very high and severe.

In fact, auditors said investigating the water and wastewater billings and collections was difficult because they were unable to conduct key interviews.

They said most of the Petersburg employees involved in the water contract were no longer employed so they could only interview current employees.

Auditors recommended a number of changes that could help the city prevent and detect errors, misconduct, and fraud, waste and abuse in the future.

Some of those recommendations include establishing a formal City Compliance and Ethics Program and hiring a Chief Compliance and Ethics Officer.

Here is the full 115-page forensic audit report: