Serving the High Plains

City, MCC months late on audits

Required financial audits of the City of Tucumcari and Mesalands Community College are more than eight months late, landing both on the state auditor’s at-risk list and the possibility of a loss of state funds.

Stephanie Telles, director of the government accountability office for the New Mexico Office of the State Auditor, told the Quay County Sun in an email last week that Mesalands should have submitted an audit for fiscal year 2021 by Nov. 1.

Telles also stated the City of Tucumcari should have submitted its FY2021 audit to the state by Dec. 15.

Both entities landed on the state auditor’s “at-risk list” of about 40 entities tardy with their reports.

“If entities receiving public funds are not audited, the risks of misstatements or fraud, waste and abuse increase,” the auditor’s office stated on its website.

Telles also cited a 2013 executive order by then-Gov. Susana Martinez stating that entities would not be eligible for the New Mexico Legislature’s capital outlay funds if they do not have annual financial audits in place.

“Millions of dollars are spent each year on capital projects in communities throughout our state,” Martinez wrote at the time. “It’s important for the entities spending this money to show on a regular basis that they meet financial management standards.”

New Tucumcari city manager Paula Chacon, who began her duties last week, said Thursday during the city commission meeting the city’s contract with Axiom CPAs and Business Advisors of Albuquerque had expired on June 30 and that a new contract with the firm had been sent to the state for approval.

Chacon said an exit hearing for the FY2021 audit has been set for Sept. 8. She said she would push to finish that audit quickly, then complete the FY2022 audit by its regular deadline of Dec. 15.

“We’re moving ahead and trying to get this done,” she said.

Chacon said Axiom auditors performed fieldwork at City Hall in March, with the expectation the audit would be complete by June.

She said she assumed Axiom, which audits a variety of municipalities and entities, became too busy, though the firm and the city both should take the blame for the late audit.

After the meeting, Chacon said she wasn’t certain why Axiom didn’t finish its audit report by June as anticipated.

Assistant city manager Mark Martinez, who was acting city manager during Axiom’s fieldwork, said the effect of an audit submitted late this year would be a “minimal” finding in the report.

An email to Axiom requesting an explanation for its late report was not answered.

Meanwhile, during a Mesalands board of trustees Aug. 23 meeting, board Chairman Jim Streetman asked about the status of its audit. President Gregg Busch replied the college had suffered “setbacks” with the loss of personnel in its finance department, hence the lateness of the audit.

Blanca Pauliukevicius, the college’s new chief financial officer, said during last week’s meeting the audit was finished and “in the hands of auditors for a final review.”

Pauliukevicius stated in her monthly written report to the board she had held weekly meetings with Marty Mathisen of CliftonLarsonAllen LLP of Albuquerque, who is the college’s lead auditor for the past few years, to “discuss audit findings, journal entries and corrections needed in financial operations.”

She stated she held weekly meetings with consultant Wanda Helms “to work on audit findings, researched pending issues, entries and addressed challenges on double posted entries.” She reported she worked on reconciliations with the college’s business office staff and submitted inquiries and corrections to Mathisen. The report stated she participated in a close-out call with Mathisen on Aug. 5.

Busch previously said during an April board of trustees meeting he anticipated the audit would be finished and submitted by late May.

Mathisen declined to comment when contacted by email.