Thursday, June 19, 2008

Finances, Audits, and the City Council

Last night Fall River Mayor Robert Correia addressed the city council to discuss some of the finding of the audit and the steps he actions he plans to take to put the city's financial management on solid ground.

The Mayor requested a total of 1.2 million dollars be allocated from free cash to 3 separate funds. These funds would be used to create new systems, fix past deficiencies, bring the backlog up to date, upgrades and training for city technology systems, as well as program management, assessments, evaluations and improvements. A two-thirds vote of the council would be required in order to utilize these funds.

Clearly, the audit shows that there are issues with how the city has conducted its financial management. And while I remain somewhat critical of the audit and the audit process, these are not new issues. As much as I sympathize with Ed Lambert and feel he's being used as a scapegoat, I wonder why he didn't address these problems?

The city's annual audits have pointed out issues for years. Why wasn't more done to address them? Where was the oversight? If the former mayor didn't do enough to address these problems what role does the city council play?

There are basically two issues here, how to fix the problem and how do we make sure the problem doesn't happen again. The Mayor seems to have the first part under control. However, I assume and I hope that the City Council will have some oversight on this. I want to know exactly what we're spending this money on. I want to see different options, presentations, bids, the works. I'll be very disappointed if the Mayor simply comes back to the council and says 'here's what I'm doing and here's how much I want.'

The second part is a little tougher. How do me make sure this doesn't happen again? We have to ask ourselves why did it happen this time. Honestly, we had a mayor that didn't put financial management on the top of his list. Fine, let's get past that and realize that it could happen again. Where's the fail safe? How do we make sure that the city council provides better oversight? Is it time to create a job description as former council candidate Mike Miozza suggested? Should there be a guideline or goals? If not, should the duties of each council committee be better defined? I think transparency is key. The most current audit is available on the city website. Perhaps all annual audits, past and present, should be on the website. The easier it is for citizens to look at and scrutinize the audit, the easier it is to hold our elected leadership accountable.


Anonymous said...

You do not fix a problem by throwing money at it. This money is going to be used to pay consultants and hire another body in the Mayor's office. The budget in the Mayor's office has escalated enough for one year. Why is it okay for the new Mayor to use one time monies for recurring expenses? He used free cash to add to the Mayor's office budget to pay recurring salaries for his staff. He has only been in office six months that's a way to go through free cash!!! And he complains about the past administrations!

Anonymous said...

Here is the answer:

Appointments and jobs for supporters.

Lefty said...

Without the benefit of research, I believe the one time money was to hire staff for the current fiscal year that wasn't budgeted by the former administration.

Is the Mayor throwing money at the problem? There certainly are some issues that need to be addressed. To do that we're going to have to spend some money. It's up to the city council to provide oversight to see this money gets spent correctly and wisely. (God help us)

I think any mayor could be charged with cronyism. It wouldn't surprise me if some of these jobs went to his supporters, but it would be foolish is they went to people that were not qualified.

We'll have to watch this closely.