Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Audit - more questions than answers!

So, at long last we have an independent audit on the financial condition of Fall River. The findings? Not good. According to the audit results the city's financial records and infrastructure are a complete mess.

According to this report, our record keeping is sloppy, we're years behind in submitting financial information to various agencies, we've failed to collect payments owed to the city, our IT department is inadequate, overall the our entire financial management is in dire need of an overhaul.

This is sobering news. I'm not surprised that the audit found issues. I think it's fair to say we knew that we have some financial management issues. I am shocked at how complete the problem seems to be.

Mayor Correia has pointedly blamed the previous mayor for leaving the city is lousy financial shape. What surprises me is that for the last few months Ed Lambert has very publicly defended his administration. Why would Ed Lambert do this? Why would he argue that Mayor Correia is wrong, that his administration left the city in good shape with a financial surplus? Seriously, Bob is now on the 6th floor and has all the records at his disposal. Bob is the one having an audit done. Ed Lambert knows this and I can't figure out why he would defend his legacy if he knows his argument will be proven wrong. Don't tell me it's to try to salvage his legacy, because we call that digging ourselves in deeper.

I think Ed Lambert is much to savvy to defend his administration just to be humiliated when his defense is proven false. My guess is that he either did not know how badly the city's finances were being managed or that what we're now being told about this 'mismanagement' is being fed to us with a healthy does of spin.

Now, the former mayor is challenging the findings of the audit report. In a letter submitted the Herald News and sent to all members of the city council Mayor Lambert states that the report is factually wrong on many points.

Some of Mayor Lambert's points of contention are:

The auditor's report states that the city failed to collect approximately $800,000 in payments from the Fall River Housing Authority. Mayor Lambert states that the city actually collected $871,208.97. The former mayor says that documents, including canceled checks he was able to obtain bear this out.

The report states that losses on investments cost the city "hundreds of thousands of dollars." the former mayor states that the city actually accrued a net gain on these investments and cites a "total return of $727,116.40."

The auditor's report states a discrepancy of 1.5 million dollars existed between the city's books and bank statements. The report does not clarify that the error was in the city's favor and that the city actually had 1.5 million more than what was on the books.

This brings up more questions than answers! What type of quality control went into this report? Who was responsible for providing information to the state? If the auditing team was having issues locating needed information why was the former mayor not contacted? Why was the city not able to provide information, that the former mayor, without benefit of staff, able to locate on his own in a matter of days?

How much are we paying for this audit?! If what Mayor Lambert says stands up to scrutiny the city should refuse to pay for such a botched audit. After reading the recent post on Fall River Community, I have to wonder if we should have requested an audit at all?!

Now, Ed Lambert isn't off the hook here. The auditor's report clearly points out severe flaws in how our financial management system works. Several audits performed by Hague and Sahady have also flagged issues. Why didn't the Lambert administration aggressively address these issues? In 2005 Mayor Lambert strongly opposed the need for and the cost of a state audit. However, referring again to the post on Fall River Community, why didn't he make use of free resources available through the state?

So where does the cause of our present budget problems lie? I'm not sure. The auditor's report that should have provided answers, is now in question and it seems like Ed Lambert is the victim of a witch hunt. It seems that Ed Lambert might have had a weak financial management team but prioritized maintaining city services. On the other hand it would appear that the financial team under Mayor Correia will be held accountable but city will just have to do less with less.

8 comments:

General said...

You are in the same boat that we are all in. If the Housing Authority did pay the city then:

How good was this audit? or

Where did the money go?

I cannot even begin to comment on the what is being said. The opinions, and yes even the facts if there are any facts, seem to be as wide and as far a part as the Mississippi River.

Again it is the citizens who are stuck in the middle of this mess.

Anonymous said...

Maybe a free audit did not include
having the mayor write the audit for Dinucci . Also, wasn't the comment from the state that this was the FIRST time they audited a city?? There is also a problem
with Dinucci's office if this is
true.


It does not appear that the auditors asked enough questions-
when they did not recieve the proper documentation. Why didn't
they suggest in their comments that
the city contact the Housing Authority for proof of payment?

Anonymous said...

Was that you lefty on wsar?
Good questions.

Lefty said...

It was! Thanks. Barry Richards attitude seemed to be 'Lambert lies and there are lots of things in the audit to blame Lambert for.'

My opinion is if Lambert can poke holes in the audit that quickly and that easily I have no faith in it.

Anonymous said...

Hi Lefty,

It was a much better show today though with keri on the air.

I'm not a Lambert or Correia supporter but I do have concerns
about the new mayors motives.

Nice talking with you.

The entire audit is questionable
and I

Anonymous said...

I'd first like to say that I'm a Sullivan supporter and have no connection, affiliation, or political loyalty to Correia. I'd also like to say that I started to see Lambert for the fraud that he is around 2000/2001.

With that being said, I'm not entirely surprised by the issues that were raised by the audit. I'm also not surprised that Lambert is defending his legacy. This was Lambert's career work. As badly as President Bush has failed, he too defends his political position. Additionally, Lambert has never struck me to admit he was wrong or made significant mistakes (e.g. his hiring of Maureen Glisson and Richard Trief, his failed education summits, the fact that Fall River had 4 superintendents and as many principals of Durfee in his 12 yrs in office, etc.).

Whether it was school issues, job creation, gangs, substance abuse, or the City's asthetics, Lambert was a poor leader at best. His greatest strengths were his ability to speak, playing the media to his benefit, and getting enough people to believe in him to start a strong political machine.

Sadly, many of the callers to WSAR seem to be saying the same thing as when the State (DOE) came in to tell us the state of our school system: "I knew it was bad, but I didn't know how bad."

The sad but real issue with this sentiment is that we should have known the state of our school system and finances and it should have been our Mayor and local politicians telling us.

I don't agree with much of what Barry has to say, but he was right on when saying Lambert is the "master of language" and needs to be asked very direct questions. It's also interesting that Keri agreed with him on this point, which should say something about Lambert.

The AGs office needs to be brought in and thoroughly sift through every aspect of City government, from finances to comptency of staff. Let the ducks fall where they may.

Anonymous said...

Speak about being good at language, the mayor today did not answer one question directly. He got very annoyed when he was asked about his personal driver who makes 50,000 a year. Barry Richards just loves this mayor!! I think the reason why Keri changed her tune was because the Karams got to her! Ed was called a thief and a liar so I don't think if these things were said he would not have said anything at all. Also the language in the audit was odd. They used inflamatory language wich I thought was unprofessional. Nancy

General said...

That is not fair. Mayor Correia did answer the question about his driver. He said she does other things.

Yep....Holds his umbrella during rain storms...I have seen it.

She supplies him with water at events such as a parade...I have seen it.....supplies him water at meetings....I have seen it.

She gets his coffee at events....I have seen it.


Picks up lunch....I have seen it.

So stop picking on Mayor Correia, he told the truth.