County Audit Two Years Behind

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Gila County is past due on its 2003 and its 2004 state audit, and Shirley Dawson wants to hire an outside auditor to go over the books.

But local government isn't alone. While state statutes call for annual audits to begin 90 days after the close of the fiscal year, Arizona still hasn't even assigned an overseeing auditor to Gila County for the 2003 process. The state is also running behind.

The county recently hired Richard Gaona as its new finance director. Gila County changed over to new accounting software and has to transfer previous records into the new system. It's a tedious and time-consuming process.

Gaona explained that the county handles approximately 900 different accounts and so far has only been able to enter the data for perhaps nine of those accounts into the new system.

In the course of discussing the audit status, board chairman Joe Sanchez revealed that he's received letters from the State Auditor General indicating that the county is in arrears in its reporting. Sanchez said he hadn't shared the documents as doing so outside of a supervisor's meeting could have been interpreted as violation of the open meeting law.

District 3 Supervisor Shirley Dawson implied that by not distributing the documents, Sanchez was attempting to hide or suppress the information.

Deputy County Manager Steve Besich stepped in to explain that typically anything from the auditor general would be addressed to the chairman of the board.

Besich also elaborated on the audit process, saying that it's a matter of getting the information compiled, and then getting it converted into a format that the auditor general's office can use. While accounting standards are consistent, there's no standard in accounting software between the counties and the state.

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