City working on RTS accounting after audit shines light on revenue discrepancies

GAINESVILLE, Fla. (WCJB) - Gainesville city auditors do not know what happened to more than $100,000 of Regional Transit System money over the last two years. The city is working on amending their accounting methods.

RTS has not had an audit inspection in about 20 years.

"We have so many more routes and so many more riders it was time to take another look at it," said Mayor Lauren Poe.

The 27 page report showing significant variances in the number of bus passes sold compared to the revenues noted on daily cash reports was presented at a commission meeting on November 2nd.

City Auditor Carlos Holt said, "We were basically relying on persons to write down on paper what they sold."

The audit shows the clerks at the Rosa Parks Downtown Station all used the same cash box and log-on computer credentials to process bus pass sales, making it impossible to hold staff accountable for the money exchanges. It also said background checks were not done regularly and the cameras meant to capture employees at work weren't useful.

"They were improperly aimed so that you could only see peoples hands," said Holt.

A couple of years ago, the city upgraded its bus passes to a fare box counting system, called Genfare.

City Spokesperson Chip Skinner said, "No matter what we did with our bus passes whether it was adding water marks, using can't-copy paper, laminating them using reflective stickers, people out there in the community were very adapt at using Photoshop and forging those passes."

The Genfare system, used all over the country, was supposed to count and print passes electronically. "Sometimes the machines would jump numbers, no rhyme or reason we could not identify why it would jump numbers," said Skinner.

The six month investigation found that in 2015, reported revenues exceeded the Genfare-calculated revenue by $47,560. In 2016, the Genfare-calculation exceeded the reported revenue by $84,740. In the first quarter of 2017, the difference was more than $47,000.

"Because we don't know the process, we can't trust the numbers. I have no assurance that all the revenue that was supposed to be collected was collected and deposited," said Holt, who suggested ways to rectify the issues.

Management at RTS is implementing policies for staff to count the bus passes sold correctly and use unique ID's to log on to computers and daily cash drawers. Additionally, cameras will be placed in a position to be able to view employees faces as they exchange monies and bus passes. RTS has hired new personnel and will continue to hire based on the Auditor's suggestions, such as a Genfare database manager. Periodic background checks will be conducted.

There is no evidence of fraud or theft by employees. "It was just a lack of accounting and verification," said Mayor Poe.

City auditors will be checking in on RTS policy changes in a year to see how they've implemented their suggestions.