Luzerne County’s audit deadline looming

By Jennifer Learn-Andes - | June 1st, 2016 9:34 pm

Will Luzerne County meet its June 30 audit deadline for the first time as promised?


Auditors Andrea L. Caladie and Adam Hartzel, of Baker Tilly Virchow Krause LLP, said Wednesday night they are nearing a standstill because two county agencies — Children and Youth and Mental Health/Developmental Services — have not delivered drafts of their own internal 2015 audits.

Final audits from both human service agencies also are needed before Baker Tilly can complete and deliver it’s overall 2015 county audit to the council, they said during Wednesday’s council budget, finance and audit committee meeting.

Committee members Linda McClosky Houck, Tim McGinley and Eugene Kelleher expressed frustration because they have repeatedly emphasized the importance of meeting the deadline imposed by the county’s home rule charter that became effective in January 2012.

“What the heck’s going on? Why aren’t they finished?” Kelleher asked, referring to the human service audits.

County Budget/Finance Division Head Brian Swetz said the administration delivered a directive that timely audit completion was a top priority, but that mandate didn’t trickle down to all staff until Drug and Alcohol Executive Director Michael Donahue recently was named acting human services division head.

David Schwille had retired as human services division head in April.

McGinley and McClosky Houck said protocol or a policy mandating timely audit completion may be needed in human service agencies.

“We need a hammer. It needs to be clear there will be penalties if this is not done,” Kelleher said.

County Manager C. David Pedri, who did not attend the committee meeting, said he and Swetz will be meeting with human service staffers Thursday and throughout the month to resolve outstanding problems.

“I said from the beginning that this audit needs to be on time, and we’ll do our best to make sure it is,” Pedri said, noting the deadline is still 29 days away.

“We understand the timeline. There obviously will be ramifications if we miss those deadlines, but at this point the audit is not late.”

More than 90 percent of the data needed by outside auditors has been furnished, which is progress, Pedri said. The county has a $260 million budget when human services and other outside agencies are factored in, he said.

“We’ve made strides,” Pedri said.

An on-time audit is needed in the county’s efforts to restore last year’s credit rating downgrade and assess the state of county finances.

Officials were left hanging since the 2014 audit was released last September, concluding the deficit had increased from $12.54 million to $16.9 million.

The administration recently projected gains were made whittling down the deficit last year, but Caladie and Hartzel said Wednesday they must remain mum on any preliminary assessments until they receive all the numbers.

Caladie also noted Children and Youth is a large agency that could impact the bottom line.

“A lot of this is a moving target until we have final audits, and we don’t want multiple versions of numbers floating around,” Hartzel cautioned.

By Jennifer Learn-Andes

Reach Jennifer Learn-Andes at 570-991-6388 or on Twitter @TLJenLearnAndes.