PENDER COUNTY, NC (WWAY) — A random financial audit of the Pender County Clerk of Superior Court found two areas of deficiencies and mistakes where hundreds of thousands of dollars in bonds were not collected.
The audit covered the period of July 1, 2018 through January 31, 2019.
The first area of concern regards the transfer of unclaimed funds to the State Treasurer. When someone legally entitled to the property fails to make a valid claim within a certain period of time, all abandoned property held by the Clerk is required to be transferred to the state.
Auditors examined the January 2019 report for items held over one year and identified 216 unclaimed items totaling more than $520,000.
A total of 121 items worth a little more than $69,000 remained with the Clerk’s office and should have been transferred to the State Treasurer.
As a result, the return of unclaimed funds to the rightful owners has been delayed.
Additionally, there is a potential loss of earnings on the Unclaimed Property Fund, which can reduce the amount of funds available for loans and grants to North Carolina students attending state-supported colleges and universities
According to the Pender County Clerk of Superior Court Elizabeth Craver, turnover in key staff positions prevented timely review of monthly aging reports and delayed follow-up.
The audit also found the clerk’s office failed to assess and collect sufficient bonds for the estates of minors and incapacitated adults.
State law requires bonds for estate guardians to equal 125% of the ward’s personal property, if under $100,000 or 110% of personal property, if over $100,000.
Auditors examined all 32 guardianship estates for wards that required bonds and found
five guardianship estates with insufficient bonds. Assets in the five estates totaled
$988,338 and required $1,094,073 in bonds. However, the Clerk only assessed and
collected $379,250 in bonds.
According to the report, failure to assess and collect sufficient bonds from guardians could result in financial loss to the ward if the guardian misuses the assets in the estate. Additionally, the Clerk and the State may be liable for the financial loss if bonds are not sufficient.
In a letter of response to the audit, Craver accepted the audit findings and recommendations and wrote that the office has taken corrective action to comply with all recommendations of the report.
Craver said it was an “oversight” because of changing positions due to retirement, termination and transfers that caused a lack of knowledge for certain procedures.
Craver also said the office is often short-handed and gets a little behind temporarily.