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Pa. firefighters relief group working to resolve audit concerns

June 04, 2007|by JENNIFER FITCH

BLUE RIDGE SUMMIT, Pa. - An audit of the Washington Township Volunteer Firefighters' Relief Association for 2003, 2004 and 2005 turned up four points of concern.

The association failed to document ownership in certain vehicles, did not maintain minutes of its meetings, allowed its state sales tax exemption number to expire and did not maintain a complete and accurate roster of its equipment, according to a copy of the independent audit.

The relief association is a separate legal entity from the Blue Ridge Fire & Rescue Squad, but the pair are affiliated. Pennsylvania law says that the main purpose of a relief association is "affording financial protection to volunteer firefighters against the consequences of misfortune suffered as a result of their participation in the fire service."

To address the issue of documenting joint ownership of vehicles, the auditor recommended that the association execute formal written agreements with the fire company and have its name recorded as a lien holder. The auditor noted that the relief association and fire company began doing that after the review's completion.

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Stephen Swope, president of the association, said the meeting records have been resolved.

"There were some minutes that were missing from the audit, and we had to go back and try to figure out how to redo those from recollection/memory," Swope said.

The audit reported the September 2005 expiration of the tax exemption number was accidental. The recommendation was to immediately apply for a new number.

In a previous audit, the association also was cited for not maintaining a roster of equipment it owns, according to findings in the latest report.

"Although the relief association had previously maintained equipment rosters, they were not maintained in a manner to reflect all equipment purchased and owned by the relief association. In addition, annual inventories of this equipment were not conducted to account for the relief association's fixed assets," the state auditor wrote.

The roster should include the type, date of purchase, cost, serial number and several other points, the auditor wrote.

"You have volunteers, a change in officers, things didn't get done in a timely fashion, so when the audit did take place, we didn't have an up-to-date inventory list," Swope said.

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