Jail closes canteen after audit

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By Bryan Marshall

A recent state audit found accounting records for the canteen fund at the Grant County Detention Center were “not accurate and complete.”

The Grant County Detention Center Canteen opened Feb. 25, 2011, nearly three months after Jailer Terry Peeples took office.

The goal of the store, where inmates could purchase everything from Slush Puppy drinks and snacks to toiletries and 15-inch digital TVs, was as a motivational tool for inmates to behave themselves, Peeples said when the canteen opened.

Peeples decided to close the canteen July 11, partly because a state audit issued several comments about how documentation surrounding the canteen’s finances were handled for the 2010-11 fiscal year.

“The idea behind the store was a good one, but when you try to practically operate it inside the facility it wasn’t suitable for a corrections facility,” Peeples said. “It’s too hard to prevent theft by the inmates. It’s too hard to try to prevent human error and it created a lot more accounting work. So, we thought it was in the best interest to close it down.”

The canteen’s closure also eliminated any perception of wrongdoing, Peeples said.

Inmates now will place commissary orders over the phone and a vendor will distribute the items.

The space vacant by the canteen’s closure will be transformed into a classroom for the Substance Abuse Program (SAP.)

The issues found in the audit included lack of documentation supporting every expenditure in the canteen fund, lack of documentation for approval of purchases being made, lack of two required signatures on checks, no backup server for accounting data, lack of receipts for all payments received in the canteen and inmate funds, time card records not maintained and delivery of annual financial report to the county treasurer in an untimely manner.
Peeples said completing the finances for the audit took longer because of missing files for the first half of the fiscal year before he took office.

Former Jailer Steve Kellam, however, has contended when he left the facility in December 2010, all the jail’s financial records were accounted for and located at the jail on his last day.

Since the audit, Peeples said several changes will or have been made, including securing a backup server and making sure the bank verifies that checks are double signed before they accept them.

The jail also no longer directly accepts money orders and has altered its procedures for making purchases.

“In the past, if we needed to order something, (employees) would walk up to me, we would talk about it and I’d say to go ahead and order it,” Peeples said. “But, we had no documentation of it because it was all verbal. So, the auditor requested that we use a requisition form that has to be filled out and signed. That way, if we have to refer back to it, we have documentation.”

The audit, released by state auditor Adam Edelen, is required annually by state law.

It did not find any issues with the rest of the fiscal court’s financial statements.

Overall, Peeples said the audit went smoothly.

“They had a couple suggestions and we followed their suggestions and implemented them,” he said.

To see the full audit report, go to www.auditor.ky.gov.