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Opelousas audit shows some improvement, continuing issues

Posted at 12:06 PM, Mar 29, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-29 13:06:48-04

OPELOUSAS AUDIT SHOWS LINGERING ISSUES — Auditors have found that some problems in the way the city of Opelousas' business is run continue, but there are improvements, too.

You can read the audit for yourself by clicking here. The audit looked at the city's finances and operations for the fiscal year that ended August 31, 2020.

This year's auditors found some of the same issues they found in last year's audit. You can read about last year's audit here. The audit for the 2018 fiscal year found a lot more issues. You can read about that one here.

One of the things a government audit does is keep track of issues with the way things are done from year to year; if an issue arises in 2018, for instance, auditors include it in future audits - until it is resolved.

This year's audit shows lingering issues with paying bills on time, purchase orders and asset management.

Auditors found that the police department is still failing to follow rules on purchase orders. Since the city policy requires a purchase order for anything more than $300, police officers were making multiple purchases during the day to keep the amount lower than that, auditors found. Issues with purchasing in the police department have been an audit finding for several years. The city's response is that a new policy will be enforced that won't allow multiple purchases in a single day, and they'll work more closely with the department to help them follow the rules.

Auditors found that the issue of employees failing to use the electronic time card system continued. The city's response is that, as of September 2020, all employees are now using the system.

Auditors found the issue of the city failing to pay its bills on time lingered, mostly because of cash flow issues. The city's response is that invoices will be monitored more closely to ensure they're paid on time.

Another issue that continued is the customer utility deposit account; auditors say the account should have enough money in it to cover the liabilities. In other words, if all customers closed out their accounts on the same day, the account should have enough money to return their deposits. The account doesn't have enough money in it to do that, auditors found. The city's response is that the account will be fully funded.

And, this past year the city was fined almost $9,000 for making retirement contributions late. The fees were charged by the Municipal Employees' Retirement System of Louisiana for the late submission of monthly reports and contributions for the period April 2018 through March 2020. The current mayor took office in January 2019, meaning some of that took place before he took office. The city's response is that the reports and payments will be made on time.

The city continues to struggle to get public notifications published, auditors found. As they have in past years, minutes for meetings and budget notifications have not been published according to state law, the audit states. The city responded that, starting in January 2020, new policies are in place to ensure that minutes of all open meetings will be made available as public record and published in the official journal and on the City's website timely.

On the issue of asset management, while past failures to properly inventory assets have been resolved, in this audit the city was cited for selling off surplus property without properly advertising the sale and prior to the official classification as surplus. The city's response was a promise to follow the laws and requirements for disposal of surplus property.

When the current mayor, Julius Alsandor, took over in January 2019, he had to wait on an audit to see what the situation was. At that time, the city was almost $2 million in the red. Alsandor used budget cuts and careful budgeting to close that hole. Read about that budget here.

According to the statement of activities in this audit, the city had about $14.4 million in expenses and $15.5 million in revenues. The city spends the most money on public safety, with $10.4 million spent on police and fire operations. The second-largest price tag is $3.3 million for general government operations, followed by $2 million for public works operations.