It’s 2013, and 59 New Mexico cities, counties and other governmental entities have not turned in their state-mandated annual financial audits.
That’s nothing new — back in 2007, Jemez Mountain Schools was four years behind in its audits. Two years later the state uncovered an embezzlement scheme at the tiny, impoverished district of more than $3.3 million.
So it is important that Gov. Susana Martinez has finally established some consequences for that lack of timely accountability. Under her executive order, entities ranging from Española to Eddy County face losing their capital outlay funding if they don’t get their fiscal audit houses in order.
Martinez points out that “millions of dollars are spent each year on capital projects in communities throughout our state. It’s important for the entities spending this money to show on a regular basis that they meet financial management standards.”
Especially because in New Mexico, a lack of current audits is often accompanied by a law enforcement raid. Sunland Park and the New Mexico Finance Authority are also on the audit scofflaw list.
State Auditor Hector Balderas says “it’s an important step in improving accountability of agencies that are placing public dollars at risk. It no longer allows the state to reward poor-performing agencies with additional dollars.”
It’s also important those audits actually mean something. Jemez Mountain got a “clean” independent audit just three months before its business manager’s gambling addiction came to light. Although that audit said “those charged with governance lack sufficient governmental accounting knowledge which hinders their ability to monitor, identify, react to, and minimize accounting issues that can negatively affect the district” it also rendered an “unqualified opinion,” which amounts to a clean bill of financial health.
And we know how that turned out.
This editorial first appeared in the Albuquerque Journal. It was written by members of the editorial board and is unsigned as it represents the opinion of the newspaper rather than the writers.