Gainesville Releases Financial Report; Charts Improvements
Published on December 13, 2022
The City of Gainesville's Fiscal Year 2021 Annual Comprehensive Financial Report shows no new findings, and reveals a plan to complete the next financial report by the June 2023 State of Florida deadline.
This represents a step toward returning to routine financial operations and reporting in the wake of problems and delays going as far back as fiscal year 2018. Since fiscal year 2018, annual reports from external auditor Purvis Gray & Company recorded findings in need of attention, the most significant relating to: 1) bank reconciliations and 2) financial close and reporting. The fiscal year 2021 report repeats these findings, but city staff indicates issues are on track for full resolution. Extensive progress has already been made, including closing two other findings, accounting for grant activity and segregation of duties. An additional one, building permit revenue reconciliation, has been resolved since July 2021 with the implementation of the city's new enterprise resource planning system.
The city's success in addressing these issues is largely due to the hiring of new leadership personnel. Gainesville interim City Manager Cynthia W. Curry reviewed the Florida Auditor General and Internal City Auditor reports issued in January 2022, and escalated the findings as a priority. The Department of Financial Services, led by new Director Sue Wang, has filled four key positions including an accounting manager, senior accountant, internal control manager and financial system architect. The new additions to the Department of Financial Services complement the skills of current accounting staff and together they are prioritizing internal control, policy and procedure, and focusing on reconciliation issues.
Part of the solution involves tackling complications and delays caused by the city's 2021 adoption of its new enterprise resource planning system used to manage functions ranging from the general ledger to payroll and human resources. The transition was lengthy and brought unexpected challenges as data was moved from the old system to the new one. The delays led to a letter from the Florida Joint Legislative Auditing Committee (JLAC), reminding the city to submit the fiscal year 2021 report by the Dec. 19 extended deadline.
The financial report, approved today by the City Audit Committee and scheduled to go before the Gainesville City Commission Thursday, Dec. 15, represents a major step forward. As interim City Manager Cynthia W. Curry states, "This is the result of getting people with sufficient governmental accounting experience in place to remedy lack of attention to core but critical functions relating to financial operations."
At this time, Director Wang and her team are turning their attention to next year's reporting, which they expect to submit on time with no new findings.
The Gainesville City Commission meeting begins at 10 a.m. Thursday and will be broadcast on Cox Cable Channel 12 and livestreamed on the city's website; it will be archived online.
Financial Statements and Independent Auditor's Reports
Frequently Asked Questions
What does the report say?
The Fiscal Year (FY) 2021 Annual Comprehensive Financial Report from external auditors Purvis Gray & Company includes four findings. Two date back to FY 2018: 1) Bank Reconciliations and 2) Financial Close and Reporting. The others are: 3) Building Permit Revenue Reconciliation and 4) Schedule of Expenditures of Federal Awards and State Grants. It is also important to note that the FY 2021 report from Purvis Gray & Company included no new findings, no fraud in financial operations or theft of city funds.
What caused these problems?
Governmental finance and accounting covers multiple and diverse areas, including accounting, budget, payroll, accounts receivable, accounts payable, cash receipt and investment, debt management, capital assets, grants, contract management and procurement. The department’s accounting staff had the job of compiling financial statements according to government accounting standards but high turnover and a new enterprise planning system led to issues.
Why aren’t all the issues resolved by now?
In order to best address the findings, systematic changes were needed in the Department of Financial Services. This included the hiring of accounting staff with municipal finance and accounting knowledge and experience to help create standard operating procedures in accordance with government accounting standards.
Further complicating the accounting challenges, the city implemented a new enterprise resource planning system in FY 2021. This resulted in reconciling nine months of data from the prior system with three months of data from the new system. This required significant time and effort while, at the same time, the department worked to address the report findings.
How is the city getting the financial accounting and reporting back on track, and how long will that take?
Getting back on track depends on a solid understanding of the new enterprise resource planning system. Understanding how data enters the system, flows across sections from one ledger to another, and is internally mapped is crucial. To get there, the department now has a robust training program and qualified people in the right positions.
- A finance director, who is a certified public accountant and certified public finance officer, to lead the department
- A financial systems architect to specifically train staff on the new enterprise resource planning system
- An accounting manager and a senior accountant with broad governmental accounting experience
- An internal control manager, who is a certified internal auditor and fraud examiner, to manage documentation and internal control issues
The annual audit is now issued. When would additional data be available?
Per state requirements, the annual audit will be published to the city’s website when approved by the city commission on Dec. 15. The Department of Financial Services staff is working to stabilize financial operations and reporting functions. They are also confirming the new enterprise resource planning system is working effectively. Once complete, staff will work to develop additional data sets for the public.
What lessons will the city implement to make sure this doesn’t happen again?
The breakdowns in financial operations and reporting that occurred beginning in FY 2018 were primarily due to significant turnover in personnel and a breakdown in standard operating procedures. Today the city is dedicated to creating appropriate succession plans and ensuring staff is trained and cross trained in business operations.