Bettering Plainfield with the facts since 2005

Monday, December 1, 2014

Will Council support Mapp's forensic audit proposal?

One more step toward 'just and capable' government?

Will Plainfield's City Council support the Mapp administration's proposal for a forensic audit of the city's books? We shall learn a little more tonight, as a resolution to do so is up for advancement to next week's business meeting agenda.

For years, bloggers have written about fiscal shenanigans (see Bernice's excellent summary of her posts here) at City Hall. Residents have (repeatedly) demanded a forensic audit.

'Big Al' Steinberg, the city's newest chief financial officer has outlined several of the issues in great detail while explaining the comments by the auditors on the 2013 audit. The problems noted go back for years.

In addition, Mayor Mapp's transition team of one hundred volunteers found many instances of sloppy record-keeping and possible abuses while interviewing key employees as it developed its report (see that report here).

What is a 'forensic audit'?

Forensic audits differ from the annual audit of the city's financial statements. While the annual audit is concerned to make sure that the city's books fairly, clearly and accurately reflect the city's financial condition, forensic audits have a different purpose.

The word 'forensic' itself suggests a level of investigation into the acts behind the findings, organized and presented according to rules of evidence that would allow use of the findings in legal proceedings.

Business both large and small use forensic audits to make sure their internal controls are working properly and to pursue indications of asset theft or fraud (see a brief overview here).

One advantage to Plainfield of conducting a forensic audit would be to put to rest the constant speculation about fraud and waste in the city's expenditures. Those who have performed well and exercised their fiduciary responsibilities fully will be recognized.

The $60,000 proposed cost is to be covered by two appropriations. City Council already approved a $30,000 allocation in the current budget, and the Mapp administration will put the further $30,000 into the 2015 budget proposal -- which the Council will take up early next year.

Will the Council move the resolution forward tonight? Council has shown a reluctance in the past to dig too deeply into the muck (recall the matter of the misappropriation of $15,000 from Investors Bank meant for a July 4 Parade, and the explosive revelations of former city administrator Bibi Taylor).

Tonight, however, gives the Council a chance to be on the side of the angels and put the old system of doing things behind us.

Plainfield City Council's agenda-setting session is tonight at 7:30 PM in the Council Chambers/Courthouse at Watchung Avenue and East 4th Street. The public will have an opportunity to comment both before and after the agenda discussion.

  -- Dan Damon [follow]

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