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Ferriday welcomes auditor’s direction

FERRIDAY — Ferriday Mayor Gene Allen said the town is complying with recommendations made by the Louisiana Legislative Auditor’s office about the town’s internal control policies.

The recommendations, which were voluntarily sought, were to help get the town’s finances in order and to be able to avoid mistakes that have been made in past administrations, Allen said.

“After I first took office, we went down and asked them to come in and look at what we needed to keep straight,” Allen said.

“When I was elected, the town’s business was so raggedy that we wanted them to come in and look at everything that was in place. I wanted them to come in before (the new administration) took over, but they waited a couple of months after we were in to do that.”

The legislative office’s advisory services staff visited Ferriday in October to make a general assessment of the town’s business operations, and the office’s recommendations were sent to the town in a letter dated Nov. 28.

The auditor’s office identified compliance and internal control weaknesses that included:

-A lack of written policies and procedures

-A need for timely and accurate monthly financial statements

-A need for the town’s financial status to be discussed monthly with the aldermen.

-A need to eliminate deficit fund balances in the utility and general funds

-A need for improvement of contracting processes

-Improvement of utility system billing and accounting

-Compliance with all bond and loan payment covenants

-A need for improvement to grant administration

-A need for improved records retention processes

-Issues of compliance with Louisiana Audit Law

-Issues of compliance with the Local Government Budget Act

Allen said the town was already working to correct the problems and had been for some time.

“We are correcting them as we go, we are doing it anyway,” he said. “We are working on it every day.”

The auditor’s letter also recommended that town officials and staff meet with JCP — the third party management company in charge of the town water system — and clarify what duties the town and the company have in the future of utility administration, and work with the company to establish procedures that monitor its compliance with its contractual obligations to the town.

The letter noted that no one was aware that JCP has to attend quarterly board meetings to discuss the utility system’s operational and fiscal status, and that the company was not performing accounting and meter maintenance tasks required by its contract with the town.

It likewise noted that the town’s management had not provided information to the U.S. Department of Agriculture to receive funding for utility system repairs.

The town contracted with JCP under its last administration because the USDA would not give the town grant funds to build a new water plant until a third party was contracted for its maintenance.

Allen said the auditor’s offices’ recommendations were on the agenda for the next meeting of the town aldermen.