Late county audit impacts funding from MDOT

Published 12:15am Saturday, August 10, 2013

NATCHEZ — A late audit for Adams County’s fiscal year 2011-2012 has resulted in the suspension of Mississippi Department of Transportation funds to the county.

The county’s audit was due to the Mississippi Office of the State Auditor June 30.

Any county or municipality that receives more than $500,000 in federal funding must have an audit completed by nine months after the end of the fiscal year — Adams County’s fiscal year ended Sept. 30 — by either the state auditing office or a contract auditor, but that didn’t happen this year.

Adams County Administrator Joe Murray said the penalty for the late audit has been the suspension of funds directed to Adams County for road and bridge projects from MDOT. The county received notice of the suspension nine days after the audit was supposed to be filed, he said.

The delayed completion of the audit was because the county’s auditing firm — Neiman and Associates of McComb — did not engage in time, Murray said, even though the county provided everything necessary to complete the project.

“He had all the information; we had all our stuff ready,” Murray said. “That stuff was sitting, waiting, and all he had to do was pick it up and get it.”

No one at Neiman and Associates could be reached for comment Friday.

Murray said that only seven of 82 Mississippi counties filed their audits for 2011-2012 by the deadline, and that he believed that over time many auditors had come to feel it was acceptable to file audits after the deadline.

“(State agencies) have always reserved the right to do this, but they have never really have exercised this discretionary right,” Murray said. “If I had known what kind of stance they were going to take on this, I would have been on the phone every day bugging them and saying get over here and get this thing finished.”

Since receiving the notice of the suspension of funds, one county project has been affected, a bridge the county planned to replace on Lower Woodville Road.

Adams County Supervisors President Darryl Grennell said upon learning that the bridge project would be affected, he spoke with Rep. Robert Johnson (D-Natchez), the chair of the Mississippi House transportation committee.

“I found out that yes, that money is gone for that project and (MDOT) moved it, but there will be another funding that becomes available for it in October should the audit be complete,” Grennell said.

Murray said he has already had the auditor contact MDOT about when the audit will be done, and that it is expected to be complete in the first week of September.

Once filed, MDOT funding of Adams County projects will resume, he said.

The county administrator said that the contract audit firms are selected on a two-year cycle based on an information packet that is submitted ahead of time.

Next year’s auditor — when the two-year cycle starts over — will clearly understand that everything will be completed the deadline, Murray said.

“It is unfortunate because your hands are tied to a certain extent, but with a professional firm you would think they would be held to enough of a standard that these things would be completed in the time,” he said. “My auditor may hate me next year, but this isn’t going to happen again.”