Bay St. Louis receives preliminary audit results

Bay St. Louis receives preliminary audit results

BAY ST. LOUIS, MS (WLOX) - Bay St. Louis leaders say they will go to work Thursday to correct discrepancies discovered during the city's latest financial audit. An independent audit firm unveiled a list of findings it recommends city leaders urgently address.

Auditors rolled out a list of 14 discrepancies they recommend city leaders address immediately. They relate to city debt, debt management, collection of fees and fines owed to the city and record keeping of financial accounts. The one that raised the most eyebrows pertained to insurance and risk management.

"During our testing of insurance, we noted that the city had no windstorm coverage for approximately 24 days in 2014 during hurricane season. Also in violation of state statute based on the documentation we were provided in our test work, it was determined that the city was without workmen compensation coverage for 60 days," said Jennifer Bell, who is part of the independent audit team.

The auditor said those problems have since been corrected, but some Bay St. Louis residents didn't appreciate the city and their tax dollars put at risk.

"You can't just say I didn't pay my insurance and let it lapse. Find out what your premium is going to be. Now you're a poor risk. Municipal insurance is no different. She's right, no harm no foul. We didn't get penalized. If we'd had a claim, you'd had to put it in your budget," said resident Rod Ward.

The audit found collection of fees for city services and fines owed to the court department are in need of tighter supervision.

"Individuals set up on payment plans, were they complying with the judge's orders and paying each month as they were supposed to? In several instances, no they were not," sad Bell.

The auditor said most of the discrepancies identified were easily corrected, but some Bay residents were not so easily convinced.

"I'm really appalled at the fact that there are 14 recommendations from an audit. It's too many, way too many. No, it's way, way, way too many," said resident Charles LeFluer.

Mayor Les Fillingame took responsibility for the discrepancies and promised a new day in the Bay.

"A lot of the things can be corrected with some systemic changes, and some of those systemic changes are going to change the way we interact with you. Robert is going to be comptroller slash internal auditor. He's going to set up the systems, then monitor the systems and hold the people that are parts of that system accountable," explained Fillingame.

The report unveiled by the auditors was a preliminary draft. It will be finalized and made public after city leaders respond to the problems identified and add their corrective action plan to it.

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