No fraud found in PA: After years of searching, little found in audit

Published 7:57 am Wednesday, April 26, 2017

At Tuesday’s Port Arthur city council meeting the findings of the forensic audit were presented by Todd Burchett and Anthony DeBenedictis of BKD LLP. The full service accounting firm conducted interviews with everyone from private citizens to elected officials and even created a hotline for people to call in and give information.
After years of investigation, what they found was little more than inconsistencies in policies and procedures.
Allegations that the city government was rife with corruption were what initiated the call for an audit, which began in May 2015, to delve into every aspect of the city’s workings over a period of six years spanning from late 2009 through March 2015, and also ended up including through March 2016.
Everything from human resources to parks and recreation to procurement cards or P-cards (for city employee expenses), accounts payable to utility bill collections to vendors to inspections to city yards, vehicles, city assets, including hard assets (non –cash assets) and all points in between, including what were described as possible nefarious activities were dissected.
Burchett said they gathered data and used computer data analytics to pursue every area they found inconsistencies or what they considered, in accounting terms anyway, red flags and followed them to each end.
Though they reminded council members they are not in any way qualified to make legal judgments about those inconsistencies, the two men made it clear that had anything appeared illegal they would have been obligated to report it and recommend legal action.
Burchett and DeBenedictis both made it clear that the inconsistencies they found were more about policy and procedure and that would have to be left up to the city if or how they chose to act on them. They repeated that they are not legal experts, but accounting experts. In the council’s questioning of the two accountants, the word intent came up, as did fraud, to which Burchett responded by reminding the council that fraud is a legal term and he could not comment on the legality of anything.
After almost an hour of questioning Burchett and Benedictus about their 20 page report, Councilwoman Tiffany Hamilton made the suggestion that the council refrain from any more assumptions about the findings and what may or may not constitute a red flag in breach of policy or procedure until the council members had a chance to thoroughly look over the results documents. The city manager and mayor both agreed with that.

Subscribe to our free email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox