BAKER — The city must improve its accounting practices, auditor Melvin Davis told the City Council on Tuesday night during his presentation of the 2014-15 Baker city audit.
The audit, which was supposed to have been submitted to the state legislative auditor by Dec. 31, has now been turned in, Mayor Harold Rideau confirmed after the meeting.
During a presentation Davis made to the council in March, he attributed the lateness of the audit’s completion to the city’s records not being ready until the end of November.
Baker needs to improve the way it keeps track of its inventory, maintains records for different funds and deals with purchasing, Davis said.
The police and fire department salary fund had a deficit of $54,821 during 2014-15, but, since a carryover from the previous year was not broken down between police and fire, it is impossible to tell which department was responsible, he said.
Some of the significant problems Davis pointed out were payments made using copies of invoices, which allows the possibility of duplicate payments; city inventory not being recorded correctly; money being moved inappropriately between funds; and the failure to properly maintain Hillcrest Memorial cemetery records.
Davis also cited cases of payroll and leave documents that were not signed, sometimes by employees and other times by supervisors, travel money not properly documented and meetings in restaurants improperly claimed as expenses.
“The staff are making these corrections already, and we’re going to continue to make them,” Rideau said after the meeting.
Frequent changing of auditors has hindered departments in following accounting rules, Police Chief Mike Knaps told the council.
“Postlethwaite and Netterville (the firm that audited the city in 2014), told us how they wanted things and we followed it, and now we’re getting written up for it,” he said.
Knaps implored the council to keep the same auditor for more than one year to improve consistency.
The city already is beginning to address many of the findings in the report and city employees have had meetings with Davis discussing how they can improve, city administrator and Mayor-elect Darnell Waites said.
“We’re not over the cliff,” said Waites, who takes office as mayor on July 1. “This is an opportunity for us to improve.”
Councilman Pete Heine said the issues raised by auditor need to be taken seriously.
“The problem is that when you try to say something should be changed, people say ‘that’s the way things have always been done,’ ” Heine said. “But it’s no good if it’s been done wrong.”
Davis advised the city in the future to secure a contract with an auditor before June 30 to give enough time for the audit to be completed.