Proposed bill would require Augusta contractors to submit to 4-year audits

ATLANTA — Major contractors for the city of Augusta would be required to submit to audits every four years under legislation introduced Wednesday.

Rep. Quincy Murphy, D-Augusta, drafted the bill, titled the Augusta-Rich­mond County Transparency in Government Act, with co-sponsorship by Reps. Gloria Frazier, D-Hephzibah; Earnest Smith, D-Augusta; and Wayne Howard, D-Augusta.

Murphy said he had received questions from residents concerned about Augusta’s finances. He also mentioned repeated inquiries from the state Department of Audits and Accounts for information about Augusta’s finances going back to the city’s 2008 audit. The city’s lack of response to those inquiries struck him as troublesome.

The bill applies to companies with contracts of $500,000 or more. Murphy said it wasn’t designed to include vendors such as Georgia Power Co. or AT&T but, rather, firms that provide public services on behalf of the city. Examples he offered include the companies that manage the golf courses, the water system and the bus line.

“I’m not accusing anyone,” Murphy said.

He said the city of Stockbridge has a similar program.

“I’m more concerned with having certain standards in place,” Murphy said.

The bill would require a “forensic accounting audit” at least every four years conducted by an independent accounting firm. The reports would be submitted to the Augusta Commission.

Agency heads who don’t get audits for their contractors can be fired. Contractors that don’t submit the audits can lose their city business.

As a bill that only deals with one city, its passage in the House is assured by having the majority of the local delegation as co-sponsors. Both local senators will have to agree to it for passage in the Senate and then the governor’s signature.

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