Audit questions St. John finances

Published 11:45 pm Friday, September 19, 2014

By Monique Roth

LAPLACE — A recently released report by the Louisiana State Auditor found St. John the Baptist Parish Council and parish officials failed to comply with state bid law, improperly kept records and paid some invoices without documented approval from a grant administrator.

The audit findings cover transactions dating from Jan. 1 to Dec. 31, 2013.

Auditors said parish officials failed to comply with state bid law in acquiring a pump on an emergency basis last year. Louisiana Statute states within 10 days of a public emergency, a notice should be published in the official journal.

The audit found St. John Parish properly declared an emergency for the purchase but failed to properly publish the notice.

Parish Chief Financial Officer Vince Lucia said the publication was not done “because there was confusion over whether or not all emergency purchases or only those due to official declarations required publication. That has been clarified, and all emergency purchases will be published within ten days.”

The audit also reported capital outlay item records were not properly kept, and some vendors’ invoices were paid without documented approval from a grant administrator.

“The Parish’s Finance Department has recently seen a significant increase in the volume of financial transactions which it has to account for,” the audit states.

“The level of financial activity has increased significantly over the past several years due to disaster recovery and new capital expenditures.”

The audit recommended the parish review the staffing levels and the capabilities of currently used software in order to avoid such mistakes in the future.

Lucia said the audit record and invoice issues are “related to the increase in fixed assets from $2 million in 2010 to in excess of $54 million over the last 3 years along with insufficient staff and software to accommodate the increase.”

He said all Finance Department and Purchasing and Procurement staff are investigating and reviewing new software systems to increase efficiencies in both departments, adding funds for additional staff and a new software system will be included in the 2015 parish budget. Completion of the procurement process, installation, training and implementation are planned for 2015, Lucia said.

Auditors also said there are three funds in deficit by more than $120,000 and some receivables are more than a year old and not collected.

Lucia said the Finance Department is reviewing all receivables to determine if and when funds will be collected, adding corrective actions are being taken as a result of the deficits outlined in the audit report.

Lucia said within the Special Revenue Fund there is a $32,251 deficit, which is the result of account and contract payables accrued as of Dec. 31, 2012.

He said the deficit will be resolved when contracts are completed and receivables are collected.

Within the Capital Projects Funds, Lucia said there is an $80,165 deficit resulting from expenditures related to a federal loan, used for a sewer construction project, exceeding the proceeds of the loan received to date. He said 100 percent of the expenditures are eligible for reimbursement and the deficit will be resolved once approved by the oversight agency and loan funds are disbursed.

Lucia said the third deficit, totaling $8,587, appears because the remaining fund balance in the 2002 General Obligation Bond Construction is being expended during 2013. He said it will be resolved when projects are completed and the fund is closed.