LPPJ approves move to apply to state for audit extension

Laura Hartt speaks during Tuesday night’s Lincoln Parish Police Jury Meeting. Behind her is Assistant Parish Administrator Kevin Klepzig. (Photo by T. SCOTT BOATRIGHT/LPJ)

By T. Scott Boatright

The Lincoln Parish Police Jury on Tuesday night approved a move to make a request to the state for a non-emergency extension of its annual audit.

Laura Hartt, who returned to the LPPJ on a part-time basis in January following the resignation of treasurer Julie Keen, served as LPPJ treasurer from 2015-17 and now works assisting Parish Administrator and Interim Treasurer Doug Postel and explained to the situation to jurors during Tuesday’s monthly meeting at the Lincoln Parish Library Events Center.

“(The LLPJ) engaged Billy Hulsey to perform an exit audit as a result of a key position — treasurer — resigning suddenly,” Hartt said. “Billy has done the jury’s financial audit for many years and is subcontracted to myself to perform the tasks the jury requested in that engagement letter in January.”

Hartt then explained that an exit audit is “a tailored audit” specifically requested with a list of procedures meant to ensure the continuity of operation, to prevent any deadlines from being missed and to give the LPPJ insight into the state of its financial records.

She also emphasized that an exit audit is not designed to detect instances of fraud or non-compliance with laws or regulations, saying that type of information would be determined in the jury’s annual audit.

Hartt said that she had found that all vendor invoices, payroll tax deposits and pension plan contributions had been made timely and consistently. She also said she found no violations with the Louisiana Local Budget Act.

But she also said she did find deficiencies regarding the accounting records for 2020, which she said the current treasurer’s staff is working to resolve.

Hartt said those deficiencies are that the main statements for the main operating account and the majority of funds had not been reconciled since April of 2020.

“This is a major deficiency that can cause financial reports distributed by the treasurer and provided to the jury to contain errors and misrepresentations,” Hartt said.

Hartt said she also found numerous deficiencies in internal controls established by the jury to prevent fraud or non-compliance.

“Specially, numerous cash or check receipts — deposits that need to go to the bank — were held on hand in the jury administration offices and not reconciled or deposited until several weeks after being received,” Hartt said. “Procedures say monies should be deposited within one day of receipt. That’s the goal, although we now know cash and checks were lingering sometimes for weeks at the time before they made it to the bank.

“Numerous purchases of office supplies or equipment purchases were made by circumventing the purchasing policy in place. This prevents the documentation as it relates to the purchasing policy to be kept on record, which is the audit trail for those types of purchases.”

Hartt also said that sales tax revenues from overnight stays for recreation vehicle spots at the North Louisiana Exhibition Center and Lincoln Parish Park had not been submitted, and that related sales tax payments have not been made since October of 2020.

She also said that funding from rural development for a detention center dorm had been significantly delayed due to the annual certification process through the Federal system of awards management had not been done, saying that the funding delay caused “seriously delinquent payments” to be made to the contractor.

“These deficiencies will likely lead to audit findings for the year ending December 31, 2020,” Hartt said. “Because of these deficiencies the records cannot be audited on time. Usually (Hulsey) and staff begin the audit process in the middle of March, but I don’t anticipate having the records ready to be turned over to (Hulsey) until at least June 1.”

She said that realizing that puts a kink in Hulsey’s schedule, she asked him if he thought he could start the process by July.

“That’s a possibility — July or August,” Hartt said.

Jurors then moved to give permission to apply for the non-emergency extension for the state. Hartt said she hopes that will give the process another 90 days from the June 30 deadline to be completed.

Hulsey, who has been working on LPPJ audits for more than 30 years, said he’d be able to start as soon as Hartt has the records prepared.

“I don’t think we’ve ever been late,” Hulsey said. “Not to my recollection. But this year has been unprecedented. I’ve never seen anything like this in my career.”

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