Financial auditors found the nonprofit arm of the Ascension Parish fire department in Prairieville failed to perform accounting steps aimed at ensuring the private entity is keeping close enough track of the money, including public tax dollars, in its coffers.
The Prairieville Volunteer Fire Department Inc. pays contract firefighters who help cover shifts for the taxpayer-supported public fire department in East Ascension known as Ascension Parish Fire Protection District No. 3, fire officials said. The district, which covers the Prairieville area, supplies the nonprofit with public tax money under an agreement for those firefighter costs, fire officials said.
The 2013 financial audit, which was made public Monday, did not find money was misappropriated. The nonprofit actually boosted its surplus in 2013 from $527,955 to $585,465.
But the audit cited the volunteer fire department for insufficient segregation of accounting duties; failing to reconcile the payroll cash balances on a monthly basis; relying too much on paid, outside auditors to do what, under accounting standards, should be internal work; and for turning the audit in late.
The nonprofit received $540,055 in 2013 from state and parish governments through an agreement with Fire District No. 3: $412,213 from the Ascension Parish government and $127,842 in state fire insurance rebates, the new audit says.
Parish government officials and their auditors have pushed for several years to have parish fire departments submit to fuller auditing as the departments have grown.
Mark Stewart, chief of the Fire District No. 3, said the nonprofit was the first of the volunteer departments to submit to auditing a few years ago but this year’s findings were the result of intensified scrutiny from auditors due to increasing standards. Stewart said the nonprofit has accepted the auditors’ findings and has made changes.
“They just felt there needs to be improvement up on it a little bit,” he said Monday.
In part, the closer look stemmed from after-the-fact bookkeeping adjustments that boosted the nonprofit’s revenue by $387,000, pushing the nonprofit’s total revenue above $500,000 for the first time and over key threshold in state audit law.
The department officials had been looking at monthly reports that tracked monthly expenses and the nonprofit’s cash balance but did not track all revenues, the audit says.
“Due to the department exceeding the $500,000 revenue threshold, the department was required to obtain an audit under the Louisiana Audit Law rather than a review, as had been required in previous years,” a management response in the audit says.
“As a result, the department did not obtain an audit of its financial statements on a timely basis.”
Despite the planned changes, the nonprofit has agreed to accept future findings from auditors because it will continue to rely on the auditors to create external financial statements. Parish government is regularly cited over the same issue, audits say.
The auditors had recommended the nonprofit seek help from a certified public accountant and have internal financial statements that include revenues along with expenses in monthly reports.
The nonprofit’s managers did not say they would hire a CPA but did say they would improve internal training to produce “more informative monthly reports.”
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