Management letter should be released

Published 12:00 am Thursday, April 10, 2008

The issue: Another Selma City Council meeting is due Monday with talk of the audit scheduled.

Our position: Mayor James Perkins Jr. has assured the public the books are in good shape, but a management letter has yet to be released.

We have watched many cities, school districts and other public entities undergo audits of their books.

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Some of those audits required only minor bookkeeping changes. Other audits resulted in investigative audits and, eventually, criminal charges and public officials losing their jobs or resigning.

Audits are a way the public knows that their tax dollars are being spent effectively.

Recently, the Selma City Council received its audit. Mayor James Perkins Jr. told the public the audit was a good one. The city is in sound financial shape.

We believe him. If the city was in desperate straits, the CPA firm of Wilson Price Barranco Blankenship & Billingsley of Montgomery would not have issued an unqualified audit.

What we have watched with some concern is the unavailability of the management letter, which usually accompanies a completed audit.

In our experience, most management letters are included at the back of the audit. The auditor generally tests various bookkeeping standards for the pubic body and pulls samples to see if the body complies with state law or generally approved accounting practices.

If something is missed or if the tests show an error or raise some other concerns, the auditor generally points it out in a management letter and asks the question.

Many times, the questions are submitted when the auditors have completed their work and are putting together the audit. The public body has an opportunity to address the questions in written answers.

Again, in our experience, that series of question and answers appear at the end of the audit when it is released for public consumption.

Nearly three weeks ago, a councilman asked the mayor about this letter. He replied the city was answering the questions raised by auditors.

Last year, the same auditors found what they termed, &8220;reportable conditions.&8221; These fell into two areas: material weaknesses and those not believed to be material weaknesses, but provide opportunities for making internal controls stronger, strengthening the efficiency of government.

Last year, the management letter consisted of 14 pages. Some of the findings were issues, such as the need to reconcile bank accounts in a timely fashion to creating a way for citizens and employees to communicate anonymously the knowledge and/or suspicions of wrongdoing.

We urge the city to release the management letter as soon as possible. To delay this raises suspicions on the part of the public.

After all, the city is responsible to the taxpaying public, in this case, anyone who spends a penny in Selma, and should remember the words &8220;public servants.&8221;