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Williamsport’s financial audits for 2019, 2020 ‘rough,’ auditors claim

An auditing firm says the city’s financial state for the years 2019 and 2020 is more questionable than anyone thought — and it needs more time and staff to answer those questions.

Auditors Zelenkofske Axelrod asked Tuesday for Williamsport City Council’s finance committee to recommend a wider scope of services, adding senior accountants to inspect the city finances.

“They started to dive into the auditing services in the city side and the scope changed and required more senior accountants,” said Mayor Derek Slaughter. “This is a change in that scope representing the updated services they need to provide.”

The letter from the firm effectively said auditors had no idea what it will cost.

Cory Johnson, a partner with the auditing firm, said the auditors began to dive in, and, based on conversations and issues they were made aware of, they are unable to say how much time it will take to complete the prior year audits.

“I don’t know how else to say it,” Johnson said.

An audit is based on sampling, by nature, but this will require “more time,” he said.

“We don’t know what paths we will be led down as a result of our test work,” he said.

Speed will depend on whether the auditors can obtain records, but Baker Tilly, the auditing firm the city formerly used, has yet to cooperate.

Zelenkofske Axelrod replaced Baker Tilly as the city’s auditing firm.

Councilwoman Liz Miele, committee chairwoman, said the city originally quoted $85,000 for each year.

“How much is anybody’s guess,” Johnson said. So far, it is expected the 2020 audit will be less cumbersome than 2019, but still it will be more time-consuming than previously thought, Johnson said.

The firm also is contracted to do the city’s 2021-22 audit, with a deadline of Sept. 30, 2022.

The audit by Zelenskofske Axelrod is more focused on general fund and community and economic development.

Miele said she would like to give the auditors until the end of January and revisit with them.

The committee gave the change in scope a positive recommendation for the rest of council to review and vote on Thursday night.

State Attorney General Josh Shapiro is conducting a criminal investigation into the use and management of state and federal grants by River Valley Transit from 2009 to 2019.

A recent audit of River Valley Transit indicated an $11 million deficit and possible co-mingling of funds by the prior administration and management of the Bureau of Transportation.

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