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Aldermen, city officials to hear findings of city audit

NATCHEZ — Natchez aldermen are expected to discuss the city’s audit for the 2011-2012 fiscal year today during the board’s finance committee meeting.

Natchez Mayor Butch Brown said he hopes an open discussion of the audit will allow city officials to identify potential problem areas and take appropriate actions to correct.“The auditor is going to be there and report on her findings — three or four significant things we need to address and work on,” Brown said. “We charged her to do a more thorough audit and bring us good, candid findings and recommendations on how to correct them — not just tell us what’s wrong.”

In a draft copy obtained by The Natchez Democrat, the city’s independent auditor, The Gillon Group, found a “material weakness” and “significant deficiencies” in the city’s financial reporting.

Material weaknesses were found in two different aspects of the city’s accounting.The draft audit suggests reconciliations of the city’s bank accounts to the general ledger “were not performed timely or, for some accounts, at all during the year.”

As a result, “the city’s management was making decisions without complete and accurate information available to them.”

Financial information and financial statement preparation were also included in the material weakness findings.

The draft audit notes that the city converted its accounting system to new software in 2012, and at the same time, had “staffing issues.”

City Clerk Donnie Holloway has said the death of the city’s longtime data processor and the extended absence of another employee caused problems in his office.

“We’ve been meeting with the auditor a couple times as recently as (Monday) for three and a half hours, and I think we have a better handle now of what was happening,” Brown said. “We’re still actively working on the bookkeeping system and computer systems and getting the finances of this city back in place.”

Brown took office in July 2012 and only served three months of the 2011-2012 fiscal year.

Brown said he hopes discussions about the audit today will result in an effective plan to correct any findings in the audit that need to be addressed.

“We’re just going to talk about it openly,” he said. “Hopefully, we’ll have a good, clean start for next (fiscal) year, which begins Oct. 1.”

The Natchez Board of Aldermen will meet at 11 a.m. at the City Council Chambers, which is located at 115 S. Pearl St., with the finance meeting beginning at 9:30 a.m.