CORUNNA — Shiawassee County is late completing its audit — for the fourth year in a row.
The county recently received notice of delinquency from the Michigan Department of Treasury for failing to submit its 2019 audit on time. The county also was late completing the 2016, 2017 and 2018 audits, according to the Michigan Department of Treasury website.
County officials received the notice of the 2019 delinquency from the state Aug. 11 after the original audit deadline of June 30 — and an extended deadline of July 31 — were not met, according to County Coordinator Brian Boggs. Shiawassee County’s fiscal year runs Jan. 1 through Dec. 31.
Boggs said he’s spoken with representatives from the Department of Treasury and expects to have the county’s audit submitted to the state by mid-September. Failure to complete the audit in a timely manner can result in the withholding of state revenue sharing money, the Treasury informed the county.
“(The state is) getting a lot more (late submissions) this year because of COVID-19; however, Shiawassee County needs to really get in the habit of having everything up do date, making sure that we’re following the best accounting principles and meeting the appropriate deadlines,” Boggs said via phone Thursday.
The county experienced a substantial setback in the audit process in March, according to Boggs, as Saginaw-based Rehmann business advisers — the county’s auditing firm — paused operations for approximately nine weeks amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
“They did not start working remotely until after that nine-week period, and even then they still have not returned to their offices, so they’re working on this from home,” Boggs said.
Another factor in the audit delay is Rehmann’s inability to access the county’s accounting software while working from home, Boggs said. The county uses BS&A software for accounting, which Boggs describes as the municipal standard in the state of Michigan. He estimates 90 percent of cities, villages, townships and counties in the state use BS&A software for accounting.
“They were supposed to be able to go in and pull the files that they needed with the supports because we load all of those things to it,” Boggs said. “They have been unable to do that while working from home, so that has created an issue where they want everything that they’re trying to pull for the audit given to them in a different way.”
Boggs said a third factor in the delay is tied to various challenges within county departments, particularly the treasurer’s department, which he said was way behind in meeting bank reconciliations — actual spending versus what ledgers indicate — through Dec. 31, 2019, at the beginning of the audit process.
“That was key to getting the audit going,” Boggs said. “Bank reconciliations had to be up to date and they were substantially off when I started (in April) by approximately $300,000. By pushing through we were able to get them reconciled through Dec. 31, which is what they needed to perform the audit, however that is the treasurer’s responsibility and those were not done.”
Shiawassee County officials appointed Julie Sorenson treasurer in late 2019 after Thomas Dwyer abruptly retired after being accused of not routinely supervising the office.
The outstanding 2019 audit was discussed briefly during the county board of commissioners meeting Aug. 20; Chairman Jeremy Root, R-District 5, took time during his monthly report to express his frustrations with the process.
“It’s hard to believe that an audit gets harder as you do it,” Root said during the meeting. “It should become slightly routine and get a little easier as you do it, (but) for some reason ours has just gotten harder and harder every year.”
Root acknowledged the county has experienced substantial challenges throughout the audit process, though he was unwilling to pin the blame on any particular department or entity.
“It’s been a nightmare, and it’s no single, one individual’s problems,” Root said. “We all have our problems and there’s all areas we can improve, but pointing the finger while we’re in the middle of it isn’t helping any of us through the audit process.
“We need to all work together. We need to finish this out.”
Rehmann is in its final year of a three-year contract with the county, Boggs noted, adding the county will begin its bid process for a new auditor following the completion of the 2019 audit.
“Rehmann is welcome to bid again on the process; however, we need to have these audits completed in timely manner, they need to meet the state deadlines and it’s inexcusable for us to miss them,” Boggs said.