Issues with new auditor prompt Spencer to delay deadline

Published 12:05 am Wednesday, March 9, 2022

SPENCER — The Spencer Board of Aldermen on Tuesday extended its audit contract a second time at the request of the firm performing the service for the previous fiscal year.

The board approved an extension in January at the request of R.H. Accounting services due to a delay caused by COVID-19.

On Tuesday, R.H. audit manager Nick Wicker said when there were issues with fund balance roll forward and grouping issues on three statements he began final review procedures for the report.

Wicker said the firm has not been able to get an electronic version of a final trial balance that reconciles with the town’s 2020 audited financial statements, so he has had to work manually line-by-line and group accounts from the government-wide level to the individual fund level.

This is an “initial audit,” meaning R.H. has not performed auditing services for the town before.

Town Manager Peter Franzese said if the town was a larger organization it would prepare its own financial statements, but it has to hire an accountant to prepare the statements and perform the audit. This year, something was lost in translation as the town moved to a new auditor, he said.

“It’s something related to the prior auditor,” Franzese said. “The way they were doing it was all on paper.”

Franzese said at this point the town does not have to provide any more documents to the firm and it is awaiting the completion of the audit.

The town selected R.H. after putting out a request for proposal for services last year.

Wicker said the firm is now close to completing the audit and expects to have a draft to town budget officer John Sofley “within the next week or so.” The original report due date was Oct. 31.

Alderwoman Pat Sledge asked if the firm lost employees due to COVID-19. Wicker said the firm has had staff turnover related to COVID-19 and turnover not connected to the pandemic as well.

Wicker said the firm has not noted material weakness in the town’s finances, but there is a deficiency in segregation of duties because of the limited number of town staff. Wicker said this is typical of towns the size of Spencer and the Local Government Commission will not penalize towns for the issue.

“It is very typical for organizations of this size to have segregation of duties limitations just because of personnel,” Wicker said.

About Carl Blankenship

Carl Blankenship has covered education for the Post since December 2019. Before coming to Salisbury he was a staff writer for The Avery Journal-Times in Newland and graduated from Appalachian State University in 2017, where he was editor of The Appalachian.

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