Office of the Nassau County Public Administrator

 

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NYS Comptroller

THOMAS P. DiNAPOLI

Taxpayers' Guide to State and Local Audits

Office of the Nassau County Public Administrator
Selected Financial Management and Administrative Practices


Issued: April 28, 2015
Link to full audit report 2013-S-37
Link to 90-day response

Purpose
To determine whether the Office of the Nassau County Public Administrator (NCPA) operates in compliance with governing statutes and guidelines. Our audit covers the period January 1, 2010 to February 28, 2014.

Background
The New York State Surrogate’s Court Procedure Act establishes a Court-appointed Public Administrator in 11 counties in the State, including Nassau County. Public Administrators are responsible for administering the estates of individuals who die intestate (without a will) and leave either no known heirs or heirs who are not qualified or willing to administer the estate. They are responsible for collecting, securing, and liquidating each assumed estate’s assets in order to pay valid claims against that estate. After all reasonable expenses have been paid, the Public Administrator is responsible for distributing any residual value to estate beneficiaries. Any unclaimed funds are remitted to New York State after the statutory time period. Each Public Administrator maintains a suspense account to pay estate-related expenses not covered by the Public Administrator’s appropriated county budget and prior to liquidating estate assets. The suspense accounts are funded by a fee set by the Surrogate’s Court on the closing value of each administered estate. As of December 31, 2013, the NCPA reported a caseload of 168 open estates with an estimated gross value in excess of $44 million.

Key Findings

  • The NCPA did not have documentation to support the hiring and compensation of employees who are paid through the suspense account, as otherwise required by governing regulations and guidelines.
  • The average monthly balance in the NCPA’s suspense account dropped from $241,214 in 2010, to $74,442 in 2013 ‒ a decrease of $166,772 (69 percent).
  • Although the NCPA publicly advertised for vendors annually, it did not prepare the required list of preferred vendors until 2013. Additionally, several vendors did not complete the required “Application to Provide Services.” The NCPA also did not maintain written documentation justifying the selection of particular vendors as required by the governing Guidelines. Thus, it was not clear the NCPA used the most qualified vendors at the best available prices.
  • Certain estate assets were put up for sale without the documented formal prior approval of the Surrogate’s Court pursuant to statute.
  • The NCPA’s Annual Reports to the State Comptroller did not list non-cash estate assets as required by statute. Thus, the values of many estates were significantly underreported.

Key Recommendations

  • Document the justification for the hiring of, and related payments to, employees financed by the NCPA suspense account.
  • Determine ways to minimize expenses associated with the suspense account.
  • Update the outside vendor list annually, justify the placement of each vendor on the list, and do not use vendors that have not properly applied.
  • Prepare each Annual Report to the State Comptroller in compliance with the Regulation.

Other Related Audit/Report of Interest

Niagara County Public Administrator: Internal Controls Over Estate Assets (2009M-238)


State Government Accountability Contact Information:
Audit Director: Frank Patone
Phone: (212) 417-5200; Email: StateGovernmentAccountability@osc.state.ny.us
Address: Office of the State Comptroller; Division of State Government Accountability; 110 State Street, 11th Floor; Albany, NY 12236