OCCUPATION: Owner, Brandon A. Meredith, CPA and Meredith Accounting and Tax Service LLC
EDUCATION: Bachelors of Science Finance, Eastern Illinois University
RELEVANT EXPERIENCE: 27 Years of finance and accounting experience in public accounting, banking, healthcare and government. Certified public accountant since 2009. I have held senior and director level positions in each of those industries. Served as an accountant and auditor for federally funded government programs including Head Start, LIHEAP and Community Service Block Grants (CSBG). Over the past 9 years, I have successfully built a tax and accounting practice serving hundreds of individuals and dozens of small businesses throughout the community.
Why are you seeking the position of Kankakee County auditor?
I am seeking office because of the dysfunction between current auditor and the county administration. While it is normal to have professional disagreements, the environment has turned toxic and evolved into personal and political grandstanding. Unfounded accusations of corruption, fraud and malfeasance are not only self-defeating but completely unethical. The Auditor’s Office has an obligation to bring any facts and evidence to the County Board and legal authorities when discovered. To this day, it has yet to happen but the rhetoric, which began in 2016, continues on. All of this has resulted in the basic duties of the office being ignored. Since that time, only six internal audits have been performed in nearly four years. The auditor has also refused to perform accounting duties recently assigned to him. This needs to end because effective governance is only achieved through a collective effort of its leaders. Each has a specific role to play and each must resist the urge to put his or her own aspirations above the needs of the citizens they serve.
What would be your No. 1 priority if elected?
Roll up my sleeves and get to work. First and foremost, I would like to meet with each department head and elected official to review and discuss their financial operations in order to identify inefficiencies, operational challenges and areas for improvement. This is critical in developing policies and procedures to ensure proper internal controls are in place. From there, I can begin making recommendations for cost savings and streamlining the accounting processes.
What would you change about the current structure of the county’s bill-paying procedures?
The bill paying process appears to be functioning properly as is true in a normal accounts payable cycle. The policy, from my understanding, is that purchases are requested by staff, department heads approve or deny those requests based on budgetary constraints, goods and services are then ordered, bills are received from vendors and vouchers are sent to the Auditor’s Office to be reviewed for accuracy and proper documentation, a report is prepared with recommendations for payment, the County Board approves the bills for payment and the Treasurer then cuts the checks.
Duties are segregated throughout this chain so an acceptable level of internal control appears to be in place. The dispute that has arisen is who should be performing the accounting functions along the chain. Auditors, as a practical matter, must remain independent or they risk having their objectivity compromised. Auditors should not have any authority over the transactional portion of the accounting function. If they do, their opinion would be subject to debate and potentially rendered worthless. This is where the current statute fails and should be reconsidered for amendment.
Should there be oversight of the county auditor’s office? If yes, who should provide that oversight?
The Auditor’s Office, by the nature of its work, should be an independently functioning office. Its goals and objectives should be aligned only with the best interests of the county, not the officials who run it. It exists as an added level of scrutiny to ensure accountability and transparency of its financial matters. External audits are required on an annual basis, so, that report is usually considered the pinnacle of the office’s oversight. However, I believe it is the voters of the county that ultimately provide the oversight by electing an experienced professional who will deliver results.