FORT WALTON BEACH — Okaloosa County commissioners will begin accepting proposals next week from accountants or accounting firms interested in being the board’s internal auditor.

Commissioners voted unanimously Tuesday to begin advertising for proposals Jan. 30.

“My preference … would be to do an RFP, go out to an outside CPA firm and do it that way,” Commission Chairman Don Amunds said before the vote.

Commissioner Wayne Harris agreed.

“I also think it needs to be an outside source rather than internal,” he said.

At Harris’ urging, the board agreed to open the request for proposals to individual certified public accountants as well as accounting firms.

“We have a plethora of talents out there, with respect to the (Institute for Senior Professionals at Northwest Florida State College) or people who are retired CPAs,” he said. “I don’t want to limit it to a firm when maybe we could get somebody that’s dedicated to doing this and wants to help us.”

The internal auditor would perform an overall fraud risk assessment for the county and its departments. Those areas would include accounting activities performed for the board by the Clerk of Court. The scope of work would exclude the clerk’s operations related to the judiciary, the tax collector, sheriff, property appraiser and supervisor of elections.

The auditor would focus first on the activities of the tourist development department and then prioritize other departments with board approval.

Commissioner Dave Parisot questioned whether to start with the tourist development department because it’s had such intense scrutiny in recent months.

“We kind of know where we’re at with the TDD,” Parisot said. “Some of these other departments, I think … let’s see if we have some issues there.”

County Administrator Jim Curry reminded the board that the internal auditor will have to work closely with the tourist development department to implement the changes passed down from the state auditor general in his recent operational audit. The audit was conducted in response to the extensive fraud scheme put in place by former tourism head Mark Bellinger.

Harris agreed that tourist development should be a top priority. He suggested that the internal auditor can be directed by the board to examine specific departments as the process unfolds.

“In 18 months, the AGO (auditor general’s office) is coming back, and we’ve got to ensure that we’ve done everything we can do to mitigate any of that issue and have them write us another scathing rebuke of our responsibilities,” he said.

The county’s staff recommended that the internal auditor be hired on a contract basis of three years with an option for a three-year extension.

The county will accept proposals until 4 p.m. Feb. 22.

Contact Daily News Staff Writer Kari Barlow at 850-315-4438 or Follow her on Twitter @KariBnwfdn.