City Council receives FY2016 audit

By BUSTER WOLFE,

The Hattiesburg City Council received the audited financial statements for Fiscal Year 2016 at a special-called meeting last week at City Hall. The auditing firm that finished the FY2016 report started worked on Fiscal Year 2017’s statements, which would bring the Hub City’s financial status up to date.

Mayor Toby Barker inherited a financial crisis when he took office a year ago, with audits from 2015 to the present day unfinished. The inaction left the city with little to no credit status to borrow funds for city services and infrastructure.

The FY2015 audit was completed earlier this year, but problems arose from the auditing firm, Barker said.

“I think the disadvantage we had going into the FY16 audit was the change in auditors,” he said. “We did not get the working papers from the 2015 auditor as there was a disagreement on how much we still owed them. Our opinion was that they had been paid more with the product they produced and the time that they produced it.”

The City of Hattiesburg switched auditors to Topp McWhorter Harvey PLLC to handle the Fiscal Year 2016 audit.

“So, I have to give credit to our new audit firm for making up a lot of ground very fast when they did,” Barker said. “Getting the FY16 done is big for us, and now we are moving on to FY17.”

The audit for fiscal year 2016 included most of the same problems from the FY15 audit because they were repeated from year to year without the completed audits.

In the FY16 audit, a material weakness, significant deficiency and noncompliance material to financial statements were found. In the operation of federal programs by the city, material weaknesses and significant deficiencies were found. Only three of the 18 deficiencies pointed out in the FY15 audit had been corrected.

Among the problems pointed out by the auditing firm were deficiencies in properly capturing and maintain fixed asset detail, noncompliance with state accounting procedures in the Municipal Court fines, not maintaining permanent dockets or minute records of Municipal Court as required by state law, not maintaining effective control over police ticket books, noncompliance with state law for marking city vehicles, not conducting an inventory of its assets and not completing the Municipal Compliance Questionnaire on a timely basis.

In other action during the special-called meeting, the City Council:
• Authorized Council President to execute duplicate contract with Topp McWhorter Harvey PLLC to audit the financial statements of the City of Hattiesburg for the fiscal year ended Sept. 30, 2017.
• Authorized Jackson, Tullos & Rogers, PLLC, to file Eminent Domain on behalf of the City of Hattiesburg to acquire property located off William Carey Parkway for public purpose.
• Designated "Laughs 4 Life” to be held Aug. 1 Downtown Hattiesburg as a city-approved event for the purposes described in Ordinance No. 3148.
• Authorized the acceptance of the FY17 Edward Byrne Justice Assistance Grant Program Award from the U.S. Department of Justice in the amount of $18,795 and authorized the Mayor to execute the same.