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W.Va. Legislation would impose fines for late audit submissions

By JAKE JARVIS

Charleston Gazette-Mail

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — After the state submitted an important financial audit to the federal government late for a third year in a row, the West Virginia Legislature is looking for ways to make sure that doesn’t happen again.

A draft bill presented to lawmakers during a legislative interim meeting Sunday would, if introduced and passed in the upcoming session, require annual training to comply with the audit process, strengthen financial reporting requirements and impose penalties when agencies turn in information late.

There was no discussion about the bill after it was explained by an attorney for the Legislature. Although state officials have said the audit is on track to be submitted on time this year it’s unclear how much of a difference it would make to the process in years to come.
The Legislature has previously looked at ways to strengthen the audit process, but newfound attention is on the issue after the U.S. Department of Education sanctioned every public college for the state’s misdeeds.

The audit, called a Single Audit, must be completed by every state and sent to Washington, D.C., by the end of March each year. The state’s Department of Administration compiles it.

Before it can be finished, the department first completes a Comprehensive Annual Financial Report. The CAFR, the subject of the draft bill, is used by bond rating agencies, investors thinking of purchasing the state’s bonds and federal funding agencies to evaluate how financially healthy the state government is.

The bill would fine state offices $100 a day, every day, for turning information in after an Oct. 31 deadline. Federal dollars couldn’t be used to pay the fine. The secretary of the Department of Administration would be able to reduce or waive the fine if there are extenuating circumstances out of the office’s control.

Higher education leaders and other state officials pointed to pension data, needed to comply with federal accounting standards, as the reason for hold up last time. That data comes from the Consolidated Public Retirement Board.

Agencies were left waiting for that data until December last year, well after when the state asked for financial information to be turned in.

Gov. Jim Justice previously said that “heads will roll” because of the audit mess, but his office has not publicly announced staff changes at any state agency that deals with the audit.

The draft bill would also codify a schedule for completing the state’s audits, much of which was already the Department of Administrations policy when the previous Single Audits were turned in late.

Reach Jake Jarvis at [email protected], Facebook.com/newsroomjake, 304-348-7939 or follow @NewsroomJake on Twitter.

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