Incompetence in city’s accounting department unacceptable

Published 12:01 am Sunday, June 19, 2011

I read with interest your recent article concerning the city’s being late on three years of audits and the impact that the delinquency is having on obtaining much-needed grant funds and on the city’s bond rating. Initially, I was surprised that the city would be three years delinquent in its audits. As I continued reading, I was both shocked and dismayed that taxpayer dollars were being obligated for a task that city employees are paid to do.

As I understand the article, May and Company is being paid, according to city accountant Doug Whittington, to “assist the city accounting department in gathering information, pulling invoices, creating spreadsheets and other support functions” so that the auditor can do his job. Is this audit preparation not the responsibility of the city’s accounting department? I recently went online to the website of the Mississippi Department of Audit to check past audits of the City of Vicksburg, and I am wondering why the task of audit preparation must be contracted to an outside accounting firm? It appears to me this task could be accomplished by a competent bookkeeper.

It is not a complex accounting problem but rather one of competence and diligence. Our city accounting department staff should have the knowledge and competence to do the job, if they are doing the job for which they are being paid by our tax dollars. The article also stated that Paul Rogers would be brought back from parttime to fulltime for the rest of this year. My thoughts are, why are we so far behind if the city has had these employees on the payroll?

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I have no problem with May and Company. They are an excellent firm with a great reputation, and I feel comfortable with the work they will produce. I do have a problem, however, with the possible $150,000 which they may be paid, when the job rightfully could, and should, be done in-house by city employees. We cannot afford incompetence or indolence in government at any level.

As a business owner and taxpayer, I expect more from members of government whether they are elected or whether they serve at the will and pleasure of elected officials. This is certainly true in this instance. Moreover, I have read campaign signs that advance the candidacy of a member of this department. I, for one, do not think that he has earned a promotion in county government when he obviously has not done the job that the taxpayers of Vicksburg have paid him to do.

I leave with this statement from State Auditor Stacey Pickering: “Accountability and transparency are critical to government. It is important that taxpayers know their money is spent correctly and responsibly.”

Needless to say, I question the validity of how our tax dollars are being spent in this instance. If our accounting department staff cannot do the job, we have a problem. If they can do the job and are not doing it, we have a bigger problem. Are we as taxpayers ready to accept either of theses problems? I certainly hope not. Go to the polls in August and send your answer loud and clear. Vote for responsible government!

Bill Collins