Next year’s Starr County audit will likely be delayed, firm warns

RIO GRANDE CITY — As Starr County continues to work on completing their fiscal audit, the auditing firm noted that next year’s audit would likely be delayed as well.

Melissa Gonzalez, the engagement partner from Oscar R. Gonzalez CPA & Associates, the firm contracted to conduct the county’s audit, presented an update to the commissioners court Monday morning.

Gonzalez said the audit was about 75 percent complete but needed documents related to the general fund, which the firm had not received from the county auditor’s office.

County auditor Boyd Carter said he expected to have the reconciled general fund ready to turn over by the end of the week.

However, when County Judge Eloy Vera asked how this would affect next year’s audit, Gonzalez said it was unlikely they would have enough time to review everything to have the audit completed by the June 30 deadline.

“We should have already been beginning your 2018 audit,” she said.

But for Commissioner Eloy Garza, the focus fell on the 2016 audit that was completed last year, given Carter’s previous public comments about how it was completed.

Last month, Carter told The Monitor that in working to complete the 2016 audit last year, shortcuts were taken to complete it on time.

In addressing the commissioners court on Monday, Carter said the word “shortcut” may have been inaccurate and clarified that Patillo, Brown & Hill, the audit firm they worked with last year, provided assistance in expediting the preparation of the books so they could be audited.

Carter noted that when he was hired in May 2017, the 2016 audit that was due less than two months later had not even been started.

“Patillo, Brown & Hill was not obligated to do that for us, but they understood the gravity of the situation and being the true professionals that they are, they pitched in and helped, and we got the job done expeditiously,” Carter said.

“This year is an entirely different situation; we have a new accounting firm who’s never seen us before, doesn’t know our books, doesn’t know our system, doesn’t know the staff, and we’ve had to start from scratch all over again.”

He said they were not able to receive assistance from Gonzalez & Associates because they were not familiar with the county’s accounting system.

Carter apologized for the delay but stressed that his office was working diligently to have the audit completed.

“I can’t predict the future; I assure you that my staff and I are totally dedicated to getting the job done in a professional manner as fast as possible,” he said. “We have a plan to get the audit done on time this coming year, so right after Christmas we’re going to start preparing for it.”

For Vera, the concern was ensuring the county didn’t lose any money.

As of Sept. 30, many of their grant funds were placed on hold pending completion of the audit.

“We continue working those projects so we continue spending money, but we’re not getting reimbursed until the audits are complete,” Vera said. “Right now, thank God, we’re in a financial position that we can do that for a while.

“We haven’t lost any money so far, but we’re getting close to it.”