Friday, Dec. 15

County audit: slow but sure       Send a link to a friend

[DEC. 15, 2006]  County officials are still on the wait-and-see bench in getting a completed 2004-2005 audit. Last month the board agreed to a task order to hire a subject matter expert from Tectura, Colleen Petra.

Petra had been here before and demonstrated an understanding of the county needs, and she knows the system, finance chairman Chuck Ruben told the board last month. She would work with the treasurer's office to assist in getting the figures from the new computer system in a format that the auditor, Crowe Chizek, can process.

The board agreed to an initial project management fee of six hours at $150, totaling $900, and ongoing process up to 80 hours at $150 per hour, for a total $12,000, to start Petra.

Petra was in the treasurer's office to begin the work when the ice storm hit. She stayed over in a Lincoln motel and worked from there another day, and she is continuing as her schedule allows.

The next Tectura visit is anticipated on Dec. 20, 21 or 22. At that time it is anticipated that there will be "a better handle on ending," Ruben said. "It is taking longer than expected."

When John Stewart asked how the amount of task work order hours was going, Ruben said that at this point it looks as though the hours may need to be extended to complete the work.

The Logan County treasurer's office has struggled to adapt to the use of the new Great Plains accounting software for two years. Government accounting is different from general business accounting, and it is up to the government office to identify and determine adaptations to the software application. To date there are few counties using this software, so its setup and use has been a learning process for the software consultants from Tectura as well as for Logan County Treasurer Mary Ellen Bruns and her staff.

This audit is the first to come off the new computer system that has been in place two years. The changes that Petra is making will also need to be applied to the fiscal year 2005-2006 in order for next year's audit to work.

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Ruben told the board last month that there was one other option the county was given, but it was not something that he thought the county should consider. The auditor has said that he would come down for a price paid and complete the audit, but then he would give an unfavorable report.

This is the last year of a three-year audit contract with Crowe Chizek. The audit cost is $29,000.

Last year the state mandated that counties begin a depreciation schedule on county-owned property, including equipment. This has added to the auditing process.

The county's consultant, Andy Lascody, informed Ruben that audit costs are going up. One preliminary estimate from another firm was $55,000, and the work would not be done before August. According to Lascody's research, other counties similar in size that began three-year contracts this year are now paying an average of $45,000 per audit.

Bids for the next auditing contract are expected to be available next month, Ruben said.

The audit serves as the most accurate assessment of the current financial condition of the county, as a guide to the next year's budget and is used in acquiring grants for the county, with the health department being the agency relying most on state and federal grants for its day-to-day operations and special programs.

[Jan Youngquist]


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