The Richmond Register

December 7, 2012

Information on Madison County health board incorrect on state auditor’s website

Health department officials express frustration with how data was compiled, reported

By Sarah Hogsed
Register News Writer

RICHMOND — The state auditor’s online report about the Madison County Board of Health, which is part of a recently released database of the state’s special districts, is incorrect, according to health department officials.

Chief Finance Officer David Reed discussed the report Wednesday at the board’s regular meeting, and he expressed frustration with the way the data was gathered.

“I complied with the survey – twice,” Reed said. The auditor’s office told him the first survey was lost, so he had to fill it out again, he said.

Auditor Adam Edelen has called the state’s 1,200 special districts “ghost governments,” which he says handle billions in tax dollars with little oversight.

The database shows that the Madison County Health Board is in compliance for filling out the survey and submitting its budget and Uniform Financial Report, but it shows a question mark for the audit submission.

The problem, which Edelen’s office has acknowledged, is the audit year that was submitted by many special districts.

Reed displayed a screenshot of the auditor’s survey, which specifically asked for “your special district’s most recent audit.” Reed said he submitted the 2012 fiscal year audit because it was the most recent.

However, according to the reporting database, the auditor’s office was actually requesting the 2011 audit so it could compare that to the 2011 audited, actual expenditures. That is why the database shows the health department as noncompliant.

The auditor’s database also reports that information was not provided about the counties served by the health board, the frequency of audits and the names of health board members.

“I typed in each of your all’s names, twice,” Reed told the board.

Reed pointed out the financial statements are published each year in the Richmond Register and submitted to the Department of Local Government. The Madison Fiscal Court also receives copies of the health board’s budget.

“The bottom line is, we’re compliant in all these areas,” Reed said.

“I think we need to audit the auditor’s office,” board member Dr. John Johnstone said.

Health Board Chair Dr. Stuart Tobin asked that Reed send the auditor’s office a paper copy of the 2011 audit and other information missing from the online database via certified mail.

Reed told the board that the report, which Edelen’s office has admitted contained errors, is being used to push for legislation to reform oversight for special districts. Some board members worried that more regulation could result in more costs for the board.

Reed said he has not yet contacted the auditor’s office about correcting the database errors.

At least one other local special taxing district has struggled to get incorrect information fixed on Edelen’s database. The Ambulance Board had to contact the auditor’s office numerous times to prove they were in compliance with the report and to get the database corrected, according to Director Jimmy Cornelison.

Sarah Hogsed can be reached at shogsed@richmondregister.com or 624-6694.