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Webber plans forensic audits, other measures to ‘restore trust’

SANTA FE — Mayor Alan Webber on Wednesday rolled out a 10-point corrective action plan designed to both shore up the city’s financial accounting and restore public trust, with forensic audits among the measures in the offing.

The plan comes in the wake of a scathing report by an accounting firm that determined that there are “extremely high risks of fraud due to the almost complete lack of internal controls” within the city’s financial accounting and ahead of the release of audit findings due back from the state Auditor’s Office in the coming weeks.

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Santa Fe Mayor Alan Webber and City Councilor Roman Abeyta interact during a news conference Wednesday to talk about a plan to get to the bottom of the city\’s financial troubles and restore the public\’s trust. They spoke at the Santa Fe Community Convention Center. (Eddie Moore/Journal)

“Very clearly the message is we want to change the way the city does business,” Webber said during a news conference at the Santa Fe Community Convention Center. “People want the city to change and we’re delivering that change. This is not the end. This is really just a serious set of considered measures to demonstrate that we are making change and we will continue to make change.”

The mayor, who was elected to succeed former mayor Javier Gonzales in March, said the city has already implemented some changes. His plan is intended to outline corrective steps in order to move forward.

The plan leads off with a risk assessment to be conducted by an independent, outside firm hired by the city. That will precede as many as 10 separate audits, including a forensic audit the mayor said was intended “to put to rest the question of whether there really has been practices that really didn’t pass the test of legality where there really might have been fraud or abuse.”

Items to be examined include travel reimbursements, utility billing and unexplained pay raises

There would also be “forensic-style” audits to assess how well the city is following industry standards and internal controls and on performance efficiency.

 

The second point is the implementation of the long-awaited $4.2 million Enterprise Resource Planning and Land Use Modernization Project, a major software and information technology systems upgrade, which the mayor says is critical to modernizing the city’s out-of-date financial systems.

“We really can’t deliver good services to people without the ERP in place,” Webber said.

Other points of his plan include creating a professional management culture, filling vacant positions and reorganizing the finance department, developing internal controls to assure all departments are using the same procedures and producing more frequent reports in the interest of transparency. The mayor said the city is already producing quarterly reports, but Webber said the goal is for them to come out monthly.

Webber said the city also intends to overhaul and reform citywide processes for revenue collection, including creating a uniform cash handling policy; shoring up capital asset tracking; and rebuilding IT internal controls and systems.

City councilor Roman “Tiger” Abeyta, chairman of the City Council’s Finance Committee said he felt there was a good mix on the committee of councilors who have been in place for several years and some newly elected councilors, like him, to provide a “fresh set of eyes.”

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