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N.M. slowest in releasing state audit

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When it comes to publishing a comprehensive report of last year’s state spending, New Mexico was the slowest in the nation.

There wasn’t a close second.

New Mexico got around to making its 2012 Comprehensive Annual Financial Report publicly available in late August, 426 days – or about 14 months – after the state’s fiscal year ended June 30, 2012.

The runner-up for last place was South Carolina, which completed and published its year-end statewide audit in early June after 342 days – nearly three months faster than New Mexico, according to the nonprofit group Truth in Accounting.

The apolitical group based in Illinois compiles state financial reports to create a free database of public state financial data that can be searched and compared with other states through the group’s website, www.statedatalab.org.

The group notes that the national standard for release of annual state financial reports, set by the Governmental Accounting Standards Board, is 180 days after the end of the fiscal year. In 2012, 31 states met that guideline. The fastest state, Utah, published its financial report within 111 days.

“It’s valuable to have timely reporting, because the reporting doesn’t just exist in a vacuum for people to look at it for fun. It’s not interesting bed-time reading,” Truth in Accounting spokeswoman Sheba Sands. “The reason we have the reports (is) so we can make good decisions based on the data.”

Tom Clifford, secretary of the state Department of Finance and Administration, which produces the annual report, said publication was delayed because the state needed to manually balance many transactions between agencies caused by past budgeting problems.

“You have to remember that New Mexico essentially hadn’t balanced our checkbook since at least 2006,” Clifford said. “… Business practices are being reformed to ensure consistent treatment of interagency transactions.”

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