Albuquerque Journal

State Auditor admonishes Santa Fe for late audits

City has been late with reports for at least the past three years

- BY KYLE LAND

SANTA FE — The city of Santa Fe has come under scrutiny once more over its finances, this time for failing to submit its fiscal year 2020 audit, which was due to the state more than two months ago.

It’s the latest in a series of financial mishaps the city has experience­d in recent years, both prior to and under Mayor Alan Webber’s leadership.

The city declined the Journal’s request to interview the mayor and other city officials involved with the city’s finances, instead issuing a statement that blamed the problem, at least in part, on the pandemic.

“The audit process was delayed in part by the unpreceden­ted and extraordin­ary uncertaint­ies and exigencies of the COVID-19 pandemic, but we are getting back on track,” Webber said in a news release.

The release says the city’s Finance Department “has performed commend

ably under unpreceden­ted circumstan­ces, most of them the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and its economic destructio­n.”

However, while the statement lauded the city’s “sound fiscal management,” delays in financial reporting were an issue even before the pandemic.

The previous year’s audit was submitted six months late. Its tardiness was one of 21 findings in the report that detailed multiple deficienci­es in the city’s financial internal controls. State Auditor Brian Colón referenced those findings in a memo to the city on Tuesday. He said he was “deeply concerned” by the significan­t delay to the yearly audit.

“I noted the significan­t need for the city to immediatel­y work towards remedying the issues raised within the city’s fiscal year 2019 (audit),” he wrote. “Continued failure to timely submit audits is unacceptab­le and can jeopardize critical funding, such as federal funding.”

Colón also noted the city had failed to provide its independen­t public accountant, who’s contracted to perform the audit, with documents necessary to conduct an audit for the past seven months.

Colón wrote he was “incredibly disappoint­ed” the documents had not been provided.

The city was also several months late on its 2018 audit, a process that began under former mayor Javier Gonzales.

Colón’s memo also stated the Buckman Direct Diversion and Santa Fe Solid Waste Management Agency, both of which use the city as a fiscal agent, have been unable to submit their audits because the city has not provided them with necessary informatio­n.

SWMA Executive Director Randall Kippenbroc­k said they’ve received little communicat­ion from the city regarding the audit and that it’s been a frustratin­g process.

“It can impact your ratings (and) it can impact grants,” Kippenbroc­k said of a late audit. “We’re late because we’re waiting on (the city).”

The city’s news release said Webber and other city leaders will meet with Colón on Thursday to discuss the issues raised by the Auditor’s Office.

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