Lawmakers receive Post Audit Division’s annual report on Volunteer Fire Departments

By Matthew Young, RealWV

CHARLESTON, W.Va. – The West Virginia Legislature’s Post Audits Subcommittee, on Monday, received an overview of the 2023 Annual Volunteer Fire Department Report, from Audit Manager Mike Jones. The report is a compilation of audits completed by the Post Audits Division throughout the calendar year 2023. 

“Volunteer and part-volunteer fire departments are funded through a surcharge, and a premium tax on fire and casualty insurance,” Jones began. “This collectively forms the ‘Fire Protection Fund.’”

According to Jones, regulations for use of the funds are as follows:

  • The funds are to be distributed equally each quarter among qualifying departments with part-volunteer departments receiving a prorated share.
  • West Virginia Code limits use of state funding to 14 categories of allowable expenditures.
  • Money from the Fire Protection Fund cannot be commingled with other funds.
  • Departments must maintain all receipts and invoices for a minimum of five years. 

In addition, departments are required to maintain a dedicated account for the receipt and use of monies dispersed from the Fire Protection Fund. 

“The legislative auditor is required, by statute, to audit the state funds spent by the departments for compliance with the allowable-use categories as defined in West Virginia code,” Jones explained. “Audits are limited to a review of state funding, and the bank account in which the department receives its quarterly distributions.”

Departments are selected for an audit, Jones added, based upon three factors: statutory requirement to be audited at least once in a five-year period, risk assessment, and the Post Audit Division’s ability to complete the audit in a timely fashion. 

“There are three typical findings resulting from our audits,” Jones said. “Unallowable expenditures, which is when the money is spent on items not allowed by code. Unsupported expenditures, when a department has not provided documentation it is required to maintain that supports the purchases allowed by code. Lastly, commingled funds, which results from mixing state finds with funds from other sources in a single bank account.”

In the calendar year 2023, Jones noted, 428 volunteer fire departments throughout West Virginia received approximately $32 million in quarterly distributions. 

“We audited 94 departments, totaling over $10.9 million in funds audited,” Jones said. “Of the 94 departments audited, 27 were found to be in full compliance with the applicable section of West Virginia code, and had no audit findings.”

“The remaining 67 departments audited were found to be in non-compliance with West Virginia code,” Jones continued. “These 67 departments had differing combinations of commingled funds, unallowable expenditures, and unsupported expenditures – totaling approximately $215,000.”

Of the 67 departments found to be in non-compliance, 48 had reported unallowable expenditures. 

“The legislative auditor made recommendations to each of the non-compliant departments to follow the requirements as delineated in West Virginia code,” Jones added. “All departments were provided additional resources explaining the requirements and restrictions surrounding the use of the quarterly distribution.”

At the conclusion of Jones’ overview, Del. Kayla Young, D-Kanawha, asked, “How much money is in the Fire Protection Fund?”

“It says how much money is distributed from the Fire Protection Fund, but how much do we take in?” Young asked.

“From what I understand, I believe all of the money taken in is sent out every quarter,” Jones replied.

The Post Audits Subcommittee will meet again during next month’s Interim Legislative Session, scheduled for May 19 through 21. RealWV will provide updates from the committee as additional information becomes available. 

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