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Board OKs Watkins Uiberall to audit city’s finances for 2014-15 fiscal year

By Bill Short

Flag City LogoThe Millington Board of Mayor and Aldermen approved Watkins Uiberall of Memphis this week to audit the city’s financial statements for the 2014-15 fiscal year.
Board members took the action Monday night during their regular monthly meeting on a motion offered by Alderman Thomas McGhee and seconded by Alderman Hank Hawkins.
The motion was passed by six affirmative votes, with Alderman Chris Ford absent.
Watkins Uiberall has conducted Millington’s annual audit since the 2005 fiscal year. It will be paid $49,800 for an audit of the current fiscal year, which ends on June 30.
The resolution approving the certified public accounting firm states that, in 2012, it “changed the partner” responsible for the “engagement.” And because a “new staff” will be assigned in the coming year, both will help to ensure “a fresh look and a quality audit.”
During discussion shortly before the vote, Alderman Mike Caruthers said it still “bothers” him that Millington has used the same auditor for the past decade. He noted that The University of Tennessee’s Municipal Technical Advisory Services has conducted several studies on the “pros and cons” of “rotating” auditors.
Although MTAS has advised against rotation, Caruthers said the state comptroller recommends that it be done “every three or four years.” So, he said the board really needs to “take a look” at that in future years.
Referring to some of last year’s “numbers,” Caruthers said he was concerned about the auditor not “highlighting” the amount of debt that Millington had.
“I’m going to ask a lot of specific questions this year,” he noted, “because he’s supposed to make sure that any contracts the city has are totally legal. And all revenues and expenditures are done above-board.”
Caruthers said Millington will have to be “floating” some more bond issues “later on” to generate additional revenue for the schools or infrastructure improvements.
While acknowledging that it will be the same firm, McGhee noted that the auditors assigned to the city will be different. So, he said that will provide some of the “new look” that Caruthers has recommended.
Alderman Bethany Huffman said that, if Caruthers has that many “serious concerns,” the board can schedule a work session.
“We have a session where they come and present the audit every year,” she noted. “So, I think it’s going to be important that we have a very public meeting if there are those sorts of concerns.”
Caruthers said he would like the board members to have a work session with Watkins Uiberall before it begins this year’s audit, rather than “after the fact.” That way, they can express their concerns about any areas that they think the firm should “specifically” look at.
Noting that the auditors “work for us,” Huffman said part of their job is to actually interview people and find out where they think there are issues.
In response to a question by City Finance Director John Trusty, Caruthers said he would like to have the work session before the firm starts its “field work.”

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