Tourism Bureau approves final audit draft

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[June 24, 2016]  LINCOLN - On Monday evening, the Logan County Tourism Bureau Council met for their June meeting. Councilmen present for the evening were Ron Keller, Steve Parrott, Chairman Sal Pollice, Gail Sasse, and Shawn Taylor. Renee Martin and Paresh Patel were absent for the evening.

Among the items on the agenda was the final approval of the audit reports prepared by Kerber, Eck, and Braeckel of Springfield.

At the May meeting of the council, the audit had been presented as complete, and a management letter had been issued to go with the audit. While reviewing the auditor's management letter, the council became concerned about the mention of deficiencies that were noted during the audit. The letter mentioned the deficiencies, but did not spell out what they were, or how serious they were.

It was decided then that Tourism Director Maggie McMurtrey would contact the auditors and request a new letter that spelled out the findings.

This week, McMurtrey reported that she had done this, and a new letter was issued that listed the three deficiencies.

The first deficiency dealt with the staff’s inability to supply certain financial documents. At the April meeting of the council, bookkeeper Tina Simpson had been on hand and explained there were six invoices with a total dollar amount of approximately $3,000 that the current staff could not locate. At that time Steve Parrot asked if the auditors were concerned about this. Simpson said it was a small issue, but that considering the audit was for a total period of 18 months; the auditors did not feel this was a red flag for the Bureau.

The second deficiency was similar. The staff could not produce an original document outlining the policies and procedures of the Bureau during the audit period, which was July 1, 2013, through December 31, 2014.

The third deficiency dealt with the regular preparation of financial documents during that 18 month period.

McMurtrey said she had a discussion with the lead auditor and had asked how serious these deficiencies were in the eye of an auditor. She had been told that these were not ‘red flag” issues, and also that these types of deficiencies are “typical” to the audits performed by the firm.

McMurtrey told her council she had taken the conversation one step further, asking the auditor if the firm were coming in for the first time and seeing this audit as something someone else had prepared, would they have any immediate concerns about the Bureau. The auditor had responded that the current audit would raise no concerns for her and her firm.

McMurtrey said with those questions now answered, she would ask the council to approve the audit as is so that the official document could be prepared. She said that if the council still had questions, the auditors had said they would be happy to attend a meeting and go through the audit with them.

Keller and others indicated that they didn’t see the need to have any additional discussion on the matter. Keller moved to approve the draft, and the second came from Taylor. The motion passed 5-0.

Parrott also asked if the issues that were brought up in the management letter were now being addressed so this would not happen again. McMurtrey said they were. She said that she was also going to be asking the council to approve a new audit policy. She said she would like to change the audit process from an event held every three years to an event held annually.

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McMurtrey said some of the biggest issues she had with this audit revolved around the fact that she and Tina Simpson were attempting to provide information for which they had no firsthand knowledge. The Bureau had gone through several staff changes between the first of 2013 and the end of 2014. Neither McMurtrey nor Simpson worked for the bureau during that period, which made it difficult for them to provide what the auditors wanted.

She said if audits were done annually, there would be a better chance that Tourism staff could answer questions based on personal knowledge. McMurtrey was asked if annual audits would be more expensive. She said yes, but not significantly considering the extra cost that was involved in doing the current audit. She noted that the audit for the 2013-2014 18-month period was going to cost the Bureau about $16,000.

She noted that the auditing firm had agreed to allow the Bureau to pay the audit partially from this fiscal year and partially from the next fiscal year.

She added that the bureau had saved some money over the past three months because the Logan County Alliance was not fully staffed. She said there was no event coordinator, and right now there is no office assistant. The LCA is instead utilizing an intern at no charge. This will help make up for the extra cost of the audit.

McMurtrey also shared that for this year, the LCA has decided not to charge the Tourism Bureau for any portion of the President/CEO salary, which will save the bureau several thousand dollars this year.

Keller asked about the audit request from the city of Lincoln, was the city still pursuing this. McMurtrey said that she had asked the city not to start an independent audit until the Bureau audit was completed. She said it was her understanding that the city would review the audit by Kerber, Eck, and Braeckel, and then determine if they wanted to move forward with an additional audit.

Parrott confirmed that the city was waiting to see the Bureau documents. It was discussed that the official audit should be delivered to the city as quickly as possible after it is received.

[Nila Smith]

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