Wanda Greene spent 16 years on committee charged with financial oversight

October 3rd Buncombe County Commissioners made formal changes for Internal Auditor and Audit Committee

It's now been more than eight weeks since we first reported former Buncombe County Manager Wanda Greene and others are under federal investigation.

Since Greene retired earlier this year, the new county manager and commissioners have been making a number of changes, many of them aimed at increasing transparency and limiting the county manager's power.

Buncombe County has an internal auditor and Audit Committee. The auditor is meant to provide oversight on a number of things, mostly related to the county's finances.

Commissioners recently adopted a charter for the Audit Committee, formalizing its responsibilities and enabling more oversight. The commissioners also adopted a system of internal controls, and changed who sits on the committee.

"These changes, they're pretty significant," said Audit Committee Chair Larry Harris at the October 3, 2017 commissioners' meeting.

In that meeting, commissioners made changes aimed at creating more independence for the auditor and Audit Committee.

"The internal auditor and his or her staff can't report to management, because that sort of defeats the purpose of internal audit," said Harris.

The Audit Committee was created in 2000.

Internal Auditor Terri Orange explained how management was involved.

"In the past we have only had (a) commissioner, and we have also had a member of management on the committee," Orange said.

From September 19, 2000 to January 1, 2016, Finance Director Tim Flora said, that member of management was former County Manager Wanda Greene.

Budget Director Diane Price replaced Greene in 2016, Flora said.

"We would like to remove the member of management from the committee, and replace it with another commissioner," Orange explained.

"You do not have someone from management on that committee, because it can create a conflict. This helps to avoid that," said Commissioner Joe Belcher.

On October 3, commissioners formally removed a member of management from the committee and replaced that spot with a county commissioner.

"There is more accountability in this. It is more empowering," said Belcher.

"The changes are all positive," said Robert Pressley, who was the commissioner added to the Audit Committee.

Pressley joins Commissioner Al Whitesides on the committee.

"Being a new commissioner, I was really surprised at some of the ordinances that we had. I couldn't believe what I was reading on some of them, and how outdated they were," Whitesides said.

Commissioners also changed whom the internal auditor reports to. Previously, the auditor reported to the budget and management services director, currently Diane Price.

Now, Orange says, the position reports "functionally" to the Audit Committee and "administratively" to an assistant county manager.

"Reporting functionally to the Audit Committee is a recommended practice, and provides the internal audit function a measure of independence it doesn’t have if it reports directly to a member of management," Orange said.

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