Originally created 06/13/06

Further time is sought for audit



The Augusta Commission agreed Monday to seek an extension on a June 30 deadline for submitting the city's 2005 audit report.

Financial problems in several city departments and unresolved questions about $3 million to $4 million in one department have stalled the audit, City Administrator Fred Russell and the local auditor said Monday.

The city's finance committee was scheduled to hear an update from Cherry, Bekaert & Holland, but partner Bonnie Cox said auditors need to do more "testing."

Mr. Russell said it would "not be appropriate" to discuss an incomplete audit.

"We do have preliminary issues that we've got out there that we're working on," he said. "They will all be discussed at the end of the audit period."

Despite prodding from Commissioners Don Grantham, Keith Brown and Joe Bowles and Mayor Deke Copenhaver, who pushed to hear what the issues are, Mr. Russell prevailed.

Mr. Grantham said this is the third year there have been delays with the audit.

"There has to be a problem somewhere," he said. "That problem, I think, should be discussed privately, collectively, however you feel is best as far as the audit company goes. I think we need to know exactly what the holdup is and what the problems you've encountered in getting the audit on time when I was assured we would be given that."

Mr. Copenhaver said he "completely concurred."

"We need to know what those problems are and address them," he said. "Don't pull any punches."

Ms. Cox said there are several areas involving a lot of money that auditors are not satisfied with.

"And we're trying to work through the problems and figure out so we can come to conclusions," she said. "It's just not going to happen by June 30 because of the many different areas and the dollars associated with it."

Mr. Brown said that, based on the city's $5 million deficit, commissioners need to figure out what the problems are and resolve them.

In an attempt to put the situation in perspective, Mr. Russell said the problem areas only involve $3 million to $4 million of the city's budget of more than $600 million.

"One area has not been audited in three years, so we've discovered some issues there that are brand-new issues," he said.

Mr. Russell compared the audit to peeling an onion.

"The deeper you get, the more you peel the onion and the more you have to look at what is going on," he said.