Luzerne County officials promise corrective action on audit delay issues

By Jennifer Learn-Andes - jandes@timesleader.com
Luzerne County Courthouse -

Luzerne County administrators told council members they will get to the bottom of Children and Youth fiscal issues that are making the county’s overall 2017 audit late.

County Manager C. David Pedri said the problem has been an ongoing “lesson in frustration” because one prior audit asserted the county owes the agency millions of dollars while a subsequent one said the agency owes the county the same amount.

“Children and Youth numbers have been a consistent issue. We have to get them right,” Pedri told council at its Tuesday meeting.

The administration implemented fiscal staffing changes earlier this year, although officials did not discuss specifics, citing personnel confidentiality.

Pedri said the county is seeking a new Children and Youth fiscal officer. The position, advertised on the human resources section at www.luzernecounty.org, starts at $59,269, with applications due Friday.

County Budget/Finance Division Head Brian Swetz told council the issue has “nothing to do” with missing cash. Instead, the problem is related to difficulties reconciling past balance sheet discrepancies over local county matches toward the agency’s budget, which is currently around $40 million, he said.

Swetz said he can’t verify whether county matches before 2013 were too high or low because the county switched to a new computerized financial record system. All he can say for certain is that the county has provided the correct required match since that year, he said.

Budget/finance staffers are working with Children and Youth and other human service agencies to identify all flagged items and figure out the years to which they are tied, he said. Auditors have now made the discrepancies a “material point” that must be resolved, he said.

Monthly meetings with budget/finance and human service fiscal representatives also have started to implement corrective measures that should prevent future reimbursement issues, Swetz said, noting the fiscal year calendar followed by some of these agencies complicates matters.

Pedri had informed council in May the audit would not be completed by the home rule government’s June 30 deadline due to Children and Youth financial-record issues.

The Children and Youth audit, which has been completed by MaherDuessel, was needed for CliftonLarsonAllen to finish the countywide audit, officials have said.

Financial investors expect an audit by Sept. 30, and delays could negatively impact the interest rates on future borrowing/refinancing and the county’s credit rating, officials have said.

Swetz said the audit is undergoing final review and should be released Friday.

Council Chairman Tim McGinley said he is in the process of scheduling a special public council work session next week to discuss the audit with CliftonLarsonAllen representatives.

Councilwoman Linda McClosky Houck expressed frustration that the Children and Youth audit, which already was released to council, did not thoroughly answer what went wrong.

“There was no explanation of why we waited so long for that audit or what the problems were,” she said.

McClosky Houck also questioned why the agency audit contained no discussion and analysis from management that is expected under accounting standards.

Swetz told McClosky Houck the agency’s audit hasn’t contained such management analysis in at least four years, but that work should be completed.

Despite the problems, Pedri said he’s confident the overall audit will show a surplus. He predicted the deficit pegged at $8 million the end of 2016 will be cleared by the end of this year.

Luzerne County Courthouse
https://www.psdispatch.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/09/web1_luzcocourthouse01-8.jpgLuzerne County Courthouse

By Jennifer Learn-Andes

jandes@timesleader.com

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

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