NATCHEZ – The elected representatives of the city of Natchez heard Tuesday evening the audit report of its last fiscal year ending September 30, 2020, and the news was good, tempered by conclusions of not unexpected accounting procedures.
The audit catches up with the city on overdue audits, having completed three in the past calendar year, ending a nightmarish disarray of the city clerk’s office that could have cost the city millions of dollars in state and federal funding.
Prior to Natchez Mayor Dan Gibson, former Mayor Darryl Grennell inherited a city clerk’s office that was behind on an unreconciled bank account and incomplete audits, the result of several different staff changes from 2010 onwards. .
In October 2020, Grennell hired Servia Fortenberry as city clerk.
At Tuesday night’s meeting, Aldermen and Gibson praised the work of Fortenberry, who they credit with the leadership needed to get the city’s financial books in order.
Carr Hammond, CPA, partner at Natchez’s Silas Simmons accounting firm, said the fiscal 2020 audit is scheduled for September 30.
“This is the first time in quite a long time” that an audit of the town of Natchez has been completed on time, he said.
Hammond said the audit for the current fiscal year, which ends September 30, is due to be completed by June 30, 2022, earlier than usual due to the federal funding involved.
He thanked City Clerk Servia Fortenberry and her staff for completing all three audits. However, Hammond said the audit includes several “findings” that the city needs to improve with its internal controls required to meet government accounting standards.
- Bank reconciliations, which must be done accurately and in a timely manner.
âIt’s definitely better this year, but it’s a basic and fundamental check and it should be tied in on a monthly basis,â Hammond said. âKeeping up is essential. “
Mayor Dan Gibson and aldermen discussed a meeting with Fortenberry to determine if her staffing is at the level it should be to complete her work each month, or if perhaps some work could be outsourced.
- Accounting records, such as the recording of transactions, are not recorded in a timely manner. Hammond said processes have improved but issues remain.
- Lack of proper approval for inter-fund transfers. He said that when a fund is running out of cash and cash is needed quickly, a loan of some sort is taken from another fund that may have excess cash at that time. These may not have been approved properly, âhe said. “It’s a persistent problem.”
- Lack of segregation of duties within the clerk’s office. Hammond said the problem is common for small government entities with limited staff. Different employees should be responsible for signing checks, approving invoices for payment, and reconciling bank accounts.
Gibson and Aldermen praised the work of Fortenberry, its team, and consultant Wallace Collins, who participated in all three audits this year.
Gibson pointed out that the city ended the fiscal year ending 2020 in the dark and expects to end the current fiscal year with a surplus of around $ 925,000.