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County joins 21st century

DeWitt Era-Enterprise of DeWitt, Arkansas

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Computer system makes record-keeping easier

With the installation of its new computer system, the Arkansas County ClerkandTreasurer will finally make it into the 21st century.

Other county offices have upgraded their systems, but these two were still using an old-fashioned DOS-based system, which not only made record-keeping and bill paying extremely cumbersome, but also left the two offices prey to serious errors and misappropriations.

"We'll save a lot of time and money," Arkansas County Judge Glenn "Sonny" Cox said.. Just as important, after a year in which the county faced embezzlement of funds by former Arkansas County Clerk Cathy Orman, serious accounting errors and negative findings' by state auditors, the system has "a huge amount of checks and balances."

Arkansas County Chief Deputy Clerk Melissa Wood described the old system.

Claims for payment would be filled out by hand, then Wood arranged them all in alphabetical order to look up the vendor numbers in a book., She would then take the stack to Cox for approval. Next came the process of entering them in the computer, which involved constantly closing one screen and opening another.

"There was no way for me to know whether there were funds available at the time," Wood said.

With the new system, which goes into effect this week, a claim comes in with a simple label, on it, which includes the item's new 12-digit code. Wood pointed out one immediate advantage of the new system; multipleclaimsfrom the same office for the same vendor can all be processed at once.

"The sheriff's office has three light bills," Wood said. Previously those would be treated as three separate claims. "We can now do all of them on one."

All Wood has to do now is enter the system and generate a paper claim that will be attached to the bill. These are sent to Cox for approval. Once they are approved, Wood prints a report and takes it to the Treasurer's Office.

The new system also corrects a number of very basic problems. "One thing right off is that we now have passwords," Wood said. The system also has multiple workstations, so that other workers can cross-train and monitor the system. Also, the county judge's office will be able to keep an eye on things.

Cox and administrative assistant Ruby Allen will be able to monitor the whole process from the judge's office. "We'll be looking at trends," Cox said. "If any account is trending down, we can take action, "Cox said.

Treasurer Charles Albert Horton 's job will also become a lot easier. Instead of receiving a stack of bills from the clerk's office and having to input them again in his computer system, all he will have todo now is import them from the clerk's office.

"We'll import the list of bills that have been approved to be paid.and the computer will make out the checks," Horton said.

Earlier this year the county found a major error on its books when the collector's office went over budget. Horton said this new system should eliminate those types of problems.

Under the county's old system of issuing warrants, Horton never knew how much money had been spent until he went to the bank and collected the warrants that had been turned in. "I didn't know if there would be five or a hundred and five of them," he said. Now that the county can issue checks directly, "We'll know as soon as we write a check how much is left in that account. That's the important thing."

The county will also now have a complete audit trail of the entire transaction. Even seemingly mi-norchanges will help significantly. Horton said the. new system will have times on any report that is run, so employees will'know which report is the most up to date.

Cox said, "We've spent a lot of money on this system, but we think it's worth it. We now have a huge amount of checks and balances." After dealing with so many errors both accidental and deliberate this year, the new system "holds us more accountable to the taxpayers."

Copyright 2012 DeWitt Era-Enterprise, DeWitt, Arkansas. All Rights Reserved. This content, including derivations, may not be stored or distributed in any manner, disseminated, published, broadcast, rewritten or reproduced without express, written consent from SmallTownPapers, Inc.

Original Publication Date: January 5, 2012

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