Audit  Audit of the Essex Sheriff’s Department

This transition audit of the Essex Sheriff's Department was requested to obtain an understanding of the organization and areas needing corrective action. It examined the period of July 1, 2015 through December 31, 2016.

Organization: Office of the State Auditor
Date published: August 27, 2018

Executive Summary

In accordance with Section 12 of Chapter 11 of the Massachusetts General Laws, the Office of the State Auditor (OSA) has performed an audit of various activities of the Essex Sheriff’s Department (SDE) for the period July 1, 2015 through December 31, 2016.

SDE’s newly elected Sheriff, who was sworn in on January 4, 2017, requested this transition audit. Transition audits are typically requested by newly elected officials to obtain an understanding of an organization and any areas needing corrective action and improvement. The conclusions reached in this report refer to office operations in effect during the previous administration.

In this audit, we reviewed the adequacy of SDE’s internal control plan (ICP); compliance with the requirements of Chapter 647 of the Acts of 1989 regarding the reporting of any unaccounted-for variances, losses, shortages, or thefts of funds or property to OSA; budgeting and procurement practices; cash receipts and expenditure practices; and the reconciliation process for the Police Detail Fund (PDF), Civil Process Enterprise Fund, Inmate Benefit Canteen Fund, and inmate accounts.

Finding 1

SDE had inadequate documentation regarding the procurement of $1,035,383 in goods and services.


  1. SDE’s Procurement Department should complete all SDE purchases and complete and maintain required procurement-file records, including evidence of bids or Competitive Procurement Exception Explanation Forms.
  2. SDE should communicate its procurement policy to all staff members and ensure that all employees who initiate purchases receive training on procurement compliance.

Finding 2

SDE’s ICP had not been updated as required and lacked critical components of internal control.


  1. SDE should request training from the Office of the State Comptroller on how to properly complete an ICP.
  2. SDE should develop and implement a policy requiring that its ICP be updated annually based on a current department-wide risk assessment and address all components of enterprise risk management.

Finding 3

SDE did not file a required report on lost inmate funds.


  1. SDE should establish a policy detailing a process for filing a timely report with OSA for all shortages or thefts of funds or property.
  2. SDE should ensure that all personnel are properly trained and aware of the Chapter 647 reporting requirement for all shortages or thefts of funds or property.

Finding 4

SDE did not properly administer, and report on, its inventory of fixed assets.


  1. SDE’s management should ensure that its inventory staff is trained on fixed-asset policies and procedures.
  2. SDE should conduct an annual physical inventory of all assets and complete reconciliations of the annual physical inventory results to its asset records.
  3. SDE’s Fiscal Department should maintain a complete record of all SDE assets on file.

Finding 5

SDE lacked adequate segregation of duties for its funds.


  1. SDE should implement policies and procedures for the processing of its fund accounts.
  2. SDE should segregate duties for authorizing transactions, recording transactions to the general ledger, and reconciling transactions for its funds or, because of limited personnel, implement closer supervision or more frequent reviews.

Finding 6

SDE’s fund expenditures lacked proper authorizations.


SDE should ensure that all approvals of expenditures are documented.

Finding 7a

SDE did not charge police detail administration fees in many cases; this resulted in an operating loss.

Finding 7b

SDE did not ensure that required documentation was obtained to support officers’ detail payments.


  1. SDE should develop policies addressing all business functions of PDF operations, including the collection of an administration fee from all hiring entities to ensure that it charges them enough to support PDF operations.
  2. SDE should ensure that payments for police details are supported by the required documentation. Officers should complete and return the required work detail slips to support hours worked and obtain the signatures of site supervisors to substantiate those hours.

A PDF copy of the audit of the Essex Sheriff's Department is available here.

List of Abbreviations


Committee of Sponsoring Organizations of the Treadway Commission


Civil Process Division


Civil Process Enterprise Fund


enterprise risk management


generally accepted accounting principles


Inmate Benefit Canteen Fund


internal control plan


Massachusetts Management Accounting and Reporting System


Office of the State Auditor


Office of the State Comptroller


Police Detail Fund


Regional Emergency Communications Center


Essex Sheriff’s Department




(617) 727-3014


Massachusetts State House
Room 230
Boston, MA 02133

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