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Health, Science & Environment

Auditors: Utah Service Districts Need Better Controls

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Ricky Romero
/
Flickr Creative Commons
Local and special service districts need to do better keeping up to date with conflict of interest rules and other administrative standards when handling public money, says a legislative audit released Tuesday.

The Legislature’s auditors checked operations at some of Utah’s water improvement districts, and they say most of those districts need to tidy up routine operations.

The Legislative Auditor General’s office focused on 16 districts that provide culinary water but no other services. They found 10 needing fine tuning with tasks like bookkeeping, planning and procurement.

“In general, we found that smaller districts had more non-compliant issues than larger districts, likely due to the fact that smaller districts have fewer staff to help with administrative functions,” lead auditor Wayne Kidd told lawmakers Tuesday.

Auditors say periodic training would help local and special service districts like these keep up to date with laws and policies governing organizations that do the public’s business using taxpayer funds.

One example in the audit was the Bona Vista District in northern Utah that manages nearly $20 million. It hasn’t sought competitive bids for engineering or legal services for more than a decade.

In eastern Utah’s West Duchesne District, there’s a conflict of interest because the manager is also provides most of the district’s construction services as a private contractor.

LeGrand Bitter, executive director of the Utah Association of Special Districts, says the findings are welcome.

“We look forward to being involved in a positive way in training districts and district boards throughout the state of Utah in trying to support them in their governance of the people’s assets,” he said.

Auditors are hoping their review gets attention from more than 400 districts in Utah that provide a variety of services, from water and sewer improvements to mosquito abatement.

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