Macon submits new 2005 audit in effort to gain state grant money

The city of Macon submitted a new version of its fiscal 2005 audit this week, which will hopefully unlock state grant dollars held up by a disagreement over the financial inquiry, Mayor Robert Reichert said today.

The ball is now in the states court, and revenue officials are expected to review the audit and get back to the city. If they accept the new audit, several hundred thousand dollars being in grant money, mostly funding for road resurfacing, can flow again, according to the mayors office.

The dispute over the fiscal 2005 audit goes back to sometime after the city switched auditing firms for fiscal 2006. The former firm, Clifton, Lipford, Hardison and Parker, pulled its fiscal 2005 audit when the city changed the way it dealt with about $15 million in bad debt on its books.

Based on promises city officials made at the time, the firm expected the city to balance those accounts via transfers from various city funds, auditor Mark Hardison has said.

But at least some of the accounts didnt have the money. For example: The city expected a more than $6 million payment to its general fund from the group insurance fund, even though that fund was running a deficit and had no assets, according to a separate 2007 audit report on this issue.

So, after the city changed firms, going with Mauldin & Jenkins, city leaders decided to write off the bad debt.

That led Clifton, Lipford, Hardison and Parker to pull its audit, essentially saying the city went back on its word when it said the accounts would be balanced. That left the city without a fiscal 2005 audit, which is required to receive various state grants.

The city resolved the issue earlier this year by paying Hardison's firm $28,000 to redo the audit.

"Our hope is that the state will move quickly to accept the audit,” Reichert said in an e-mailed news release today. "We want to publicly thank Mark Hardison and the staff at Clifton, Lipford, Hardison, and Parker for their hard work and cooperation in this process.”

The next step is waiting on a formal letter of receipt from the state, Macon Finance Director Tom Barber said in the release."Then we will work with the state towards making it an accepted audit,” Barber said.