Slipup keeps Macon from state grant eligibility

A more than three-year-old decertified audit has not been the only thing keeping Macon from accessing state grant money.

City officials, while checking recently on the status of a revised fiscal 2005 audit report that was turned in at the end of December, discovered they did not submit an unrelated study on the pension fund last year. Until a 2008 actuarial valuation of the pension fund is on file in Atlanta, Macon is “still not eligible for grants,” said Ed Blaha with the Georgia Department of Audits and Accounts, regardless of whether the audit is recertified.

The city’s finance director said the necessary material was mailed to the state Wednesday.

Blaha said the department sent the city letters in the summer and fall of last year. But the state never heard from Macon officials until the topic came up when city attorneys called last week to check on the audit situation.

City Attorney Pope Langstaff said the law requires a report to be turned in at least every two years. The actuarial study is so routine, he said, it simply got lost in the shuffle.

“We were in a transitionary stage in finance, and they just didn’t file it,” Langstaff said.

Former Finance Director Adah Roberts left the city last May. A couple months later, her second in command left as well, and the top job remained vacant until current Finance Director Tom Barber took on the position in October.

City officials have been working this week to put the pension report together. Barber was collecting signatures from the pension board chairman Tuesday and said the necessary data had been acquired but never assembled for submission.

“We already had the actuarial work done,” Barber said. “We just had to compile a report.”

Macon first lost its eligibility for certain state grants after its former auditor, the accounting firm Clifton, Lipford, Hardison and Parker, disassociated itself from the 2005 audit. The firm disagreed with how the city and its current auditor handled a subsequent report on city spending.

Some state agencies, particularly the Department of Community Affairs, have treated the situation as if Macon had no certified audit that year, and cut off various grants until Macon comes back into compliance.

City officials expect grant money will start flowing again once the various reports are certified by the state, though it was not clear how long that will take. More than $500,000 has been tied up so far, including money for road paving projects, a recycling program and the Booker T. Washington Community Center.

Telegraph staff writer Travis Fain contributed to this report. To contact writer Matt Barnwell, call 744-4251.