Books balanced, audit points out flaws

BEACON FALLS — An audit of the town’s finances has reconciled the ledger, but highlighted errors in the process.  

The Board of Finance heard the results of the 2012-13 fiscal year audit during a special meeting March 26.  

Mahoney Sable & Company Manager Amanda Backhaus said the audit showed the town’s general fund had a balance of approximately $2.15 million, which was an increase of $1.25 from the prior year.

The balance was driven by several factors including revenues coming in $92,374 higher than budgeted due to a better then expected tax collection rate and expenditures being $275,814 less than budgeted, which was primarily due to the waste water treatment plant being under budget.

According to the audit, the town’s bonding project balance had a deficit of $3.09 million, which is the amount the town still has to pay down on its various bonds. This was a decrease of $736,469 from the previous year.

The remaining funds have a balance of $294,152, which is almost a flat balance from last year, according to the audit.

The unassigned fund balance of the general fund is approximately $2.12 million, which is enough to cover 1.3 months of the town’s general fund operating expenditures, according to Backhaus said.

Earlier this year an update given on the audit showed the opening balance of the general fund was off by about $560,000 and the general ledger did not balance by approximately $200,000.

Although it has since been reconciled, Mahoney Sable & Company Senior Manager Mike VanDeventer said that was enough of a problem to be considered a significant material weakness in the audit.

VanDeventer said one of the company’s major concerns during the audit was how the financial reporting was done.

“The big issue that we ran into was the lack of control over that process,” VanDeventer said.

He continued, “It’s not one single thing that resulted in the material weakness. It was collectively the lack of procedures and the lack of oversight and accountability in the finance department.”

Board of Finance member Robert Doiron questioned how these oversights could have occurred.

“All these deficiencies, are they basically related to people who are not doing their job or they’re just not doing their job properly, or is it an undertraining issue?” Doiron asked. “If things are going wrong, why are they going wrong?”

VanDeventer said it was a combination of all of those factors.

“From my perspective it is really the accountability and oversight of that position [of finance manager], but also making sure you have the right expertise there,” VanDeventer said.

Manuel Gomes, the town’s previous finance manager, retired in January before the audit was complete. The town is currently in the process if hiring a new finance manager.

The audit could not officially be closed last week because invoices for the Depot Street Bridge project are missing.

First Selectman Christopher Bielik said he contacted the state Department of Transportation and was told the invoices were not in the file they were supposed to be in.

“An unexpected piece of bad news,” Bielik said.

According to VanDeventer if the invoices are found, the audit should be able to be closed quickly. If the invoices are not found, the auditors will have to make a note on the audit that they closed it without the invoices. This would have no impact on the town’s finances.

Other than that information, the audit is complete.

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