Eastern Ky. judge-executive pushes for change in state’s auditing system

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Published: Mar. 1, 2022 at 11:14 PM EST
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LEXINGTON, Ky. (WKYT) - An eastern Kentucky judge-executive is hoping a bill filed in the Kentucky House will restructure the auditing system in the commonwealth.

Magoffin County Judge-Executive Matt Wireman tells us the county is facing nearly $1 million in bills from audits dating back to 2013.

Judge Wireman said he’s concerned about timeliness of these bills, and said his county doesn’t have that much money in the budget for these unexpected costs. Auditor Mike Harmon’s office said these bills come from them having to go back after discovering an issue with recordkeeping in the sheriff’s office.

Judge Wireman said he can feel the financial pressure.

“If I was to pay all of this at once, I would have to literally shut my county down,” Wireman said.

He said the bills have added up from outstanding audits from nearly a decade ago and came in almost at once.

“From fiscal year 2019 to 2022, I’ve already paid $335,000 in audit bills. I’ve still got bills out there to be paid, $366,000,” Wireman said.

Add $237,000 in other fees, and that’s nearly $1 million— a county the size of Magoffin just can’t afford.

“I’m working on a finite amount of money in a very poor, rural area in Kentucky,” Wireman said.

It’s why Judge Wireman says he supports House Bill 588, filed by State Representative John Blanton. It sets deadlines for audits and allows counties in good standing to hire certified public accountants. A move Wireman says would save counties 50% in taxpayer dollars.

“Audits are supposed to be timely in nature, that’s the whole purpose, to give the reader useful information. Under the statute, it’s supposed to detect illegal activity, unauthorized purchases, to keep government honest,” Wireman said.

State Auditor Harmon is not on board with the bill. He told WKYT in a statement: “House Bill 588, without an appropriation increase, would effectively defund the Auditor’s office and result in less audit oversight of county finances.”

He added unless the legislature appropriates more general fund dollars to cover the cost, he’s required to bill counties for these audits.

In the meantime, Judge Wireman is hoping for relief, and a change.

“I’m all for audits. But I think for it to be eight, nine, ten, years old, it serves no value,” Wireman said.

Auditor Harmon said he has been a leader on efforts to reduce county audit costs, including legislation to allow agreed-upon procedures that have saved counties over $800,000 in just two years.

His office said situations of going back so far for audits is not that common.

House Bill 588 was filed Thursday. So far, it’s had little movement in Frankfort.

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