City works to prepare for audit

Published 12:05am Monday, March 4, 2013

NATCHEZ — Accountants for the City of Natchez anticipate working for a couple of more weeks on closing out last fiscal year’s books so the audit can begin.

City accountant Christine Brinegar said she and accountant Nancy Hydrick are in the process of reconciling the 2011-2012 general ledger, meaning balancing the city’s 70 to 80 accounts.

“Most will go really smoothly and quickly,” she said. “But we have a lot of accounts.”

Hydrick and Brinegar were hired last November to get the city’s books back in order, but instead have been working to close out the books to get the audit started. The cleanup process has not yet begun.

The audit must be completed by June 30.

Independent auditor Deanne Tanksley of the Gillon Group said she does not foresee any problem with the audit being completed on time. The auditors cannot begin their work until the city’s books are completely closed out.

“It’s a 300-hour audit, and there are three of us working on it, so it will take a couple of months,” she said. “Right now I don’t see why we couldn’t get it done on time.”

Closing out the books has taken so long, Brinegar said, because she and Hydrick ran into unforeseen problems that came as a result of the city clerk’s office switching its books to a new sophisticated software system.

Parts of the software were not set up correctly and have now been fixed, Brinegar said.

“We had some deduction codes that were set up wrong. We fixed things like that,” she said. “With this new system, it is extremely sophisticated, and as long as you put the right codes in and the department, it puts everything exactly where it’s supposed to be.”

But everything was not exactly where it was supposed to be when the accountants started going through the books.

The aldermen have expressed concern about working with their current fiscal year’s budget since the accountants have not had time to review it, since they have been working through problems with last year’s accounting.

Among the problems were that staff had manually entered withdrawals not knowing the software would automatically record them in the appropriate account, Brinegar said.

“So (the aldermen) will actually have more money to work with,” she said.

Both accountants also worked a little more than a week on reconciling into the new software the thousands of checks that were manually written to vendors last fiscal year.

Information Technology Director Eric Junkin is also assisting the accountants with software training and putting uniform procedures in place for city staff.

The goal, Brinegar said, is to get all the departments using the software from their respective offices, instead of creating invoices and then sending them to City Hall to be keyed into the software.

“There is so much room for error when you start (making) double entries of the data,” she said.

Uniform procedures for using the software were also not put in place, Brinegar said.

“If everyone is following a particular procedure, and everyone is going at it the same way, that’s important for consistency,” she said. “If multiple people are entering invoices, they all need to be doing it the same way.”

The process of getting the books back in order is going much better than it was in the beginning, Brinegar said.

“Procedures were the biggest thing to put into place. Everyone is going to be doing the same thing and understanding this is why were doing it this way,” she said.

“It’s going rather well. We have a lot of people to train and get on the same page. It will actually make everyone’s job easier, and it will be so much more efficient.”