Luzerne County Controller’s Office completed 44 audits in 2023

As he wraps up the first half of his four-year term as Luzerne County controller, Walter Griffith is satisfied the office is maximizing its independent watchdog mission.

“We got a lot of work done this year,” he said, pointing to 44 audits for 2023 posted on the county website for the public to view.

Twenty-five audits focused on elected municipal tax collectors.

In addition to making sure the correct amount of money was forwarded, Griffith said his office verifies the collectors have all required documents, bonding and training.

“All those things that nobody else ever seems to look at are very important. It’s about internal controls,” Griffith said.

His office also audited seven magisterial district courts and conducted another overall audit that found some magisterial building leases are not current, he said.

The remaining 11 audits covered a variety of subjects, including vehicle fuel, campaign finance reporting and the use of natural-gas recreation funding.

An audit of the county’s vending machine contract with Superior Amusements and Vending Inc. found the company paid all required 20% commissions in 2020 but owed the county one month’s commission on two machines from 2021 collectively totaling $157.

Another audit at the county prison reiterated a past recommendation to enroll in PA EZ Pass to save money on tolls when inmates must be transported on the turnpike. The prison commissary fund audit also determined the county was not receiving required interest on bank accounts. Griffith said his office worked with the administration to correct the issue, resulting in the receipt of 3% interest on more than $500,000 in funds.

Regarding interest earning, Griffith said his office audited all 80 county bank accounts to determine if they were receiving annual interest if eligible. More than half of the accounts were changed to yield higher interest, resulting in additional revenue for the county, he said.

Audits of campaign finance reports and the Act 13 natural-gas recreation funding accounts “revealed a lot of oversight issues and internal control issues,” he said.

For example, Griffith said the county was paying about $400 per month in natural-gas funding to maintain water service at the River Common, even though the service was not used, in part because a public fountain is not operating. Based on the finding, he said the county will instead pay an activation fee if it eventually determines water service is needed there.

His audit of vehicle fuel was prompted by a tip, but Griffith said testing found no inappropriate or fraudulent activity in the process of fueling county vehicles. He recommended “tightening up” of a county fuel pump activation procedure involving vehicle mileage tracking.

Griffith noted the county sheriff’s office has “excellent internal controls” and records tracking fuel usage.

The controller said he is trying to stick to a methodical audit schedule while remaining flexible to address audits requested by county Manager Romilda Crocamo or county council members. His office also is assisting in the administration’s payroll system conversion that will yield savings.

“I think the whole purpose of the controller’s office under home rule — as I’ve said many times — is to be an identifier for county taxpayers but also the legislative branch and manager,” Griffith said.

Within the office, Griffith said he has restructured positions and upgraded computer equipment while remaining under-budget.

Crocamo said she is currently revisiting all 2023 controller audits and will follow up with impacted department to ensure they are implementing recommendations.

”I see the controller’s office as a valuable resource, and we’ve been working together to try to address some of the issues identified to make county government more efficient,” Crocamo said.

All audits are posted under the controller section at

Reach Jennifer Learn-Andes at 570-991-6388 or on Twitter @TLJenLearnAndes.


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