Transparency is needed

Published 1:43 pm Thursday, December 22, 2016

Though we’re pleased the Buckingham County Volunteer Rescue Squad (BCVRS) has opened its books to the public, making available a damning financial audit completed about four months ago, it shouldn’t have taken a disgruntled former volunteer speaking to county supervisors for the agency to be more transparent about its financial and management problems.

Past and present BCVRS leadership — even if not directly involved in alleged “mismanagement and lack of accountability” — should have notified supervisors as soon as they knew something was wrong.

They should have come forward before commissioning an auditing firm to examine their books. The agency is made up of volunteers who care about Buckingham. It serves the people who live there, and we applaud members for their willingness to save lives and care for our neighbors. It also receives public funds.

The July audit assessed BCVRS’ finances and business practices from fall 2012 to fall 2015. It cited failures to properly monitor finances, overdrawn bank accounts, an approximately $400,000 loss, thousands of dollars in late fees and penalties, bank accounts in the red, tension among volunteers and a “loss of confidence in the general public.”

Part of the loss of confidence is the squad’s own doing. Being more upfront with the public about its problems before they compounded would have been wise. Why did it take more than four months for the audit to be made public?

The squad asked Robinson, Farmer, Cox Associates to perform the audit after a 2015 internal audit alleged missing receipts; missing invoices; expenditures greater than $500 not authorized by the BCVRS board; and multiple credit, debit and check cards “with different names.”

The BCVRS recently elected a new board of directors. It’s our hope it’ll do a better job of managing its funds, operations and transparency than previous leaders.