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External Audit of Impact Fees Delayed Until Internal Audit Completed

During a workshop on March 29, the city council voted to wait until an internal audit is completed before paying for an external audit regarding city impact fees.

A March 29 decision by St. Petersburg City Council  to review impact fees has been changed to allow an internal auditor to complete a review first. 

The council voted to have an external auditor review the internal work. 

For council member Steve Kornell, that decision is not good enough. "I still feel an independent review is called for," he said. "It’s not a slap at staff."

The reason for the March workshop was so the council could define the scope of the external audit. However, at the workshop there was significant confusion on whether the council actually approved an external audit back in January and if it could change its decision pending the results of the internal audit. 

After hearing the city was nearly done with its internal audit, the council decided to wait until those results are published. 

"(It's) hard to develop a scope of work without knowing what’s been done," City Attorney John Wolfe said of the external audit scope.

City auditor Brad Scott said the audit should completed soon. 

Council member Jim Kennedy, who voted against the audit, said the audit would get the city nowhere.

"I'm not sure what the objective is in investigating employees that are no longer with the city," Kennedy said. The statue of limitations, he said, would handicap what the city could even look at.

"Not sure that by the time we get there that we could have anything that we could collect," Kennedy added. "I don’t understand what the benefit would be of doing it."

The call for an audit came following publicity of a  in 2003, which the city said was a mistake.

Kornell originally brought up the issue in January. He said he wanted to “propose initiating a management study to audit the collection of taxes and impact fees between the years 2004-2011.

“I feel my No. 1 duty as an elected official is to safeguard, to make sure things are open and transparent,” Kornell said in January.

Out of 10,000 previous transactions, Kornell said a previous audit looked at 50 transportation impact fees. Four out of those 50 were incorrect.

“That’s an eight percent error rate in our audit,” Kornell said. “I trust our internal audit, (but) if you look at one half of one percent and you have eight percent errors, that calls for a further audit.”

Wengay Newton said he wants to the city to do the external review before it is too late. "It's like someone is holding the ball trying to run the clock out," he said. 

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