Mayor Jamie Mayo.jpg

The city of Monroe recorded a general fund surplus of some $155,000 for the fiscal year ending April 30, but the city was cited for four audit findings, including two findings for failing to follow guidelines on federal grants received by the city, according to an audit report released Monday.

The audit report for the 2018-2019 fiscal year, disclosed by the state Legislative Auditor’s office, was prepared by Allen, Green & Williamson, a Monroe certified public accounting firm.

The general fund is the city’s main operating fund. During the 2018-2019 fiscal year, the city generated some $59.4 million in general fund revenues and spent some $55.7 million. After all transfers, the city realized a general fund surplus of some $155,000, raising the city’s fund balance to some $14.1 million.

Meanwhile, the city’s four findings entailed one repeat finding from previous years about city employees’ inadequate timekeeping measures as well as two findings related to the city’s compliance with guidelines for federal grants.

Mayor Jamie Mayo did not respond to The Ouachita Citizen’s inquiry about the audit report.

In one finding, the city failed to follow cash management standards while handling federal grant funds for the city’s public transit system. In another finding, the city failed to submit financial reports as required by the U.S. Department of Transportation on two airport improvement system grants.

The Ouachita Citizen reached out to each member of the Monroe City Council for comment. Many were unavailable or unable to speak prior to press time Tuesday.

Concerning the findings, City Councilman Michael Echols expressed concern that the two findings pertaining to federal grants would endanger the city’s future applications for grant funding.

“Those findings give me pause and are a grave concern,” Echols said. “If we’re not handling federal money appropriately, that’s a major issue.”

In the transit system finding, the city received grants through the Department of Transportation but failed to develop a policy or practice to ensure the federal funds were spent on transit system costs in a timely manner. Auditors tested 10 expenditures and determined three disbursements of federal funds were non-compliant with federal requirements.

Stacey Rowell, the city’s director of administration, said the city’s cash management policies and procedures would be updated to guarantee future compliance.

In the airport system finding, the city has two open grants under the airport improvement system and is required to submit a federal financial report each year. The city failed to file the required annual reports for two open grants.

Auditors reported a third finding for poor accounting and financial reporting. Rowell pledged improved accounting performance.

“Accounting will continue to closely monitor year-end invoices and deposits and enhance training to the other departments in order to ensure that year-end balances are accurate,” Rowell said. “Cash will be posted in the month that it is received, and appropriate corresponding accounts receivables will be recorded.”

The audit report also detailed a repeat finding from past years: employees in certain departments failed to use a palm-reading timecard terminals to record their work hours.

Auditors pointed out that the timecard terminals appeared to be working and each city department was provided documentation about how to clock in and clock out.

“However, the system is not being used by all departments,” auditors stated. “In fact, many large departments and maybe even the majority of the employees are not using this timecard system. For example the Police and Fire Departments employees are using a manual systems for part of the personnel, which is basically on an honor system, while others can be documented through dispatch reports. The employees on the honor system are automatically given eight hours a day as being worked unless the employee submits paperwork reflecting that they were off or out.”

There are some 950 employees working for the city.

“It is deeply concerning that we have repeat findings after years of trying to get the city to adopt different procedures,” Echols said.

In response to the finding, Rowell said timeclock procedures were implemented for administrative personnel at the Monroe Fire Department and for non-commissioned personnel at Monroe Police Department.

Use of the terminals had been assigned to fire stations or for patrol officers, who currently use a “strict miss-out policy,” according to Rowell.

“Further use of the timeclocks in these departments may be considered in the future if deemed appropriate,” Rowell said.

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