To the editor,
The Portsmouth Audit for fiscal year 2021-2022 has not been delivered to the people as required by law. The audit has now been late in three of the last five years and the Town …
To the editor,
The Portsmouth Audit for fiscal year 2021-2022 has not been delivered to the people as required by law. The audit has now been late in three of the last five years and the Town Council must get directly involved.
Any audit that is late should be considered a warning of financial difficulties. Production and publication of the audit is required by the people of Portsmouth in the Home Rule Charter, and it is in these reports that fiscal problems are usually revealed.
The annual audit is a fundamental requirement imposed by our citizens upon Portsmouth government. If the people are to have any understanding of what their government is doing with their property taxes, they must have oversight, and the audit is the only vehicle in which that can be accomplished.
The council is required to ensure the hiring of an independent auditor. The town administrator, in his turn, is required by the Charter to ensure that the audit is finished by Dec. 31 of each year. Six months to prepare the audit is more than reasonable and is much longer than the three and a half months citizens get to do their taxes.
This year, at least some members of the council did not know that the audit was late. The due date for the audit passed without any discussion by the council or town administrator. There was also no council approval of the letter to the auditor general asking for an extension.
The council agenda of Jan. 9 made no mention of the audit at all. During that meeting, the Portsmouth Concerned Citizens took the opportunity of the monthly financial report to ask if the audit was indeed late. The town administrator responded that it was not late and that he had obtained a 30-day extension from the Rhode Island auditor general. However, that extension cannot relieve town officials from the requirements of the Charter. In addition, state law also requires submission of an audit no later than six months from the close of the fiscal year, which is Dec. 31.
The town has had six financial directors in the last seven years and this record of turnover in the finance office increases the difficulties in conducting audits, as well as managing the budget. Portsmouth once again lost its finance director in 2022, as well as its assistant financial director. These staff changes were given as one of the reasons for the lateness of the audit.
The Portsmouth government is not meeting the requirements of the law on audits. The council is ultimately responsible for these critical lapses and it is long past time that they take action.
President, Portsmouth Concerned Citizens
50 Kristen Court