Livingston Parish takes strides to fix accounting problems

Livingston finance department addresses audit findings

Livingston Parish resolved two dozen of its 30 audit findings from last year, but officials still need to improve on estimating expenditures, accounting for permit revenue and keeping the parish’s priority road list updated, according to the 2013 audit report.

In a separate letter to the parish government, the accountants at LaPorte of Covington also advised the parish to curb excessive compensated absences, develop policies to ensure the security of its computer network and reassess its library debt service millage. These items did not constitute formal findings but represented areas in which the accountants suggested improvement.

The parish’s six formal findings in the 2013 audit marked a significant improvement over the 2012 audit, which found 30 areas in which the parish’s financial statements did not meet state accounting standards.

All six findings were carry-overs from 2012, with no new problems noted in the report.

Parish President Layton Ricks said Tuesday he was “extremely appreciative of the work of (Finance Director) Jennifer Meyers and the entire department in implementing procedures to correct the findings. Going from 30 to six, they’re to be commended.”

Meyers said the improvement was the result of going through every cycle of the parish’s accounting to ensure proper controls were in place — no small feat for a department previously plagued with turnover.

“It’s confusing for the employees on the methodology of doing things,” she said. “Each finance director wants things done their way, but none were here long enough to actually correct anything. They were just trying to survive the day-to-day.”

Meyers said everyone is finally on the same page and she expects the parish’s audits to continue to improve.

The 2013 audit report, presented to the Parish Council at its July 10 meeting, cited the parish for failing to amend the budget when expenditures varied by more than 5 percent from what was budgeted.

Nineteen separate line items prompted the finding in 2012, compared to only one for 2013. That single line item represented grant funding for work that was completed at a faster rate than parish officials had expected by year-end, Meyers said.

“They don’t look at the net effect during the audit, only the gross and matching actual revenues and actual expenditures to what was budgeted,” Meyers said. “So we had extra grant revenues come in, which was good, but then we got dinged on the expenditure side for having those same grant funds going out because it exceeded what we had budgeted.”

The finding is unlikely to be repeated for 2014, Meyers said.

Another of this year’s findings — gaps in permit numbers indicating possible problems accounting for permit revenue — is likely to be resolved with a software upgrade, Meyers said. The new software will need to be financed by an increase in permit fees — something only the Parish Council can approve. The parish administration is working on a proposal to present to the council at a future meeting.

The Parish Council also was cited for failing to keep an accurate list of roads prioritized for overlay work.

The state Parish Transportation Fund Act requires all parish governing authorities to adopt a three-year prioritized project list to ensure critical needs are met first. Livingston’s list did not match the council’s formal actions as reflected in council meeting minutes, according to the audit report.

Meyers said the audit report’s three other findings — dealing with recording inventory, making adjustments in the parish’s general ledger and documenting approval for grant reports — are unlikely to recur. A software update has resolved the inventory issue, while procedure changes have resolved the other two.

Parish administration officials also are considering policy and procedure changes in response to the auditors’ suggestions in the separate management letter, Ricks said.

The parish has had ongoing problems in keeping its employees within the 160-hour maximum for accrued compensated leave due to labor shortages.

Employees who work more than 40 hours per week earn compensated leave rather than overtime, but are prohibited by ordinance from accruing more than 160 hours.

Ricks said Tuesday that parish government is working to reduce workers’ accrued comp time and he is unsure whether a formal policy change will be required.

Follow Heidi R. Kinchen on Twitter @HeidiRKinchen.