Wed, Nov 24, 2021 4:15 PM
By Victor Skinner | The Center Square contributor, The Center Square
(The Center Square) – Audits of dozens of Pennsylvania volunteer firefighters’ relief associations uncovered an array of issues, from unauthorized and undocumented expenses to noncompliance with prior audits and failures to maintain accurate equipment and volunteer rosters.
Pennsylvania Auditor General Timothy DeFoor released audit reports over the past two weeks for 27 volunteer firefighters’ relief associations (VFRAs) in 25 counties. The associations are funded by the Department of Auditor General through a 2% tax on Pennsylvania fire insurance policies sold by out-of-state companies.
The auditor general sent $54 million this year to 2,517 municipalities for VFRAs, which use the money for training, equipment, insurance and death benefits for volunteer firefighters. The relief associations are separate entities from the fire departments they support.
“Relief associations provide vital support to Pennsylvania’s first responders,” DeFoor said. “Our audits make sure state aid is used to keep our communities safe.”
Auditors found no issues with 14 of the VFRAs, while the remaining 13 could face the potential loss of state aid if they don’t come into compliance with various laws, contracts and administrative procedures.
The Duncanville Volunteer Fire Department Relief Association was cited for four issues, including the potential misuse of about $30,000 in tax money.
The Blair County association was cited for “noncompliance with prior audit recommendation involving untimely deposit of state aid,” inadequate meeting minutes, $14,272 in unauthorized expenses and $16,221 in undocumented expenses.
There was also four findings from the Paxtang Volunteer Fireman’s Relief Association in Dauphin County: noncompliance with prior audit recommendation to maintain a complete and accurate membership roster, failure to keep a complete and accurate equipment roster, failure to maintain meeting minutes, and $430 in undocumented expenses.
Auditors pointed to five issues at the Relief Association of the North Penn Volunteer Fire Company in Montgomery County, including $1,660 in undocumented expenditures, failure to secure ownership interest in jointly purchased radio equipment and failure to adhere to bylaws, as well noncompliance with prior audits regarding its equipment roster and meeting minutes.
Other associations with money issues involved the Swathmore Fire and Protective Relief Association in Delaware County, where auditors uncovered $14,355 in undocumented expenditures and $1,412 in unauthorized expenditures, as well as the West Lake Firemen’s Relief Association in Erie County with $9,394 in unauthorized expenses and $1,063 in undocumented expenditures.
Auditors found the McConnellsburg Firemen’s Relief Association in noncompliance with prior audit recommendations for inadequate bylaws and failures to inventory equipment annually.
Six associations were cited for only one infraction, including the “untimely receipt and deposit of state aid” at the Nicholson Volunteer Firefighters No. 1 Relief Association in Wyoming County and the Pioneer Hose Company Volunteer Firemen’s Association in Berks County. The Hanover Township Fireman’s Relief Association in Luzerne County was cited for “failure to maintain a complete and accurate equipment roster,” while the Mountain Tip Firemen’s Relief Association in Centre County reportedly failed to monitor investment activity.
Pike County’s Lackawaxen Township Volunteer Firemen’s Relief Association was cited for checks that were not signed by two association officers, and Potter County’s Coudersport Firemen’s Relief Association reportedly did not title a rescue vehicle correctly.
The 14 associations that received clean audits: Avonmore Volunteer Firemen’s Relief Association, Westmoreland County Susquehanna Fire Department Relief Association, Susquehanna County Volunteer Firemen’s Relief Association of Upper Dublin Township, Montgomery County Granville Township Volunteer Fireman’s Relief Association, Mifflin County Speedwell Firemen’s Relief Association, Lebanon County Brush Valley Township Volunteer Fireman’s Relief Association, Indiana County Cambridge Springs Volunteer Fire Department Relief Association, Crawford County Fox Chapel Volunteer Firefighters’ Relief Association, Allegheny County Monarch Volunteer Firemen’s Relief Association, Berks County Volunteer Fireman’s Relief Association of Brecknock Township, Lancaster County Salisbury Township Fire Co. #1 Relief Association, Lancaster County Stoneboro Volunteer Fire Company Relief Association in Mercer County, Southwest Greensburg Volunteer Firemen’s Relief Association in Westmoreland County and the Springettsbury Township Volunteer Firefighter’s Relief Association in York County.