Augusta leaders opt against deep dive into city finances

Published: Jan. 4, 2022 at 5:36 PM EST
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AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) - Augusta Commission members stuck down a forensic audit of all city departments for the third time.

Commissioners John Clarke and Catherine Smith McKnight had joined forces to put a request for a forensic audit of all city departments on the agenda for Tuesday.

“We’re not looking to find something wrong; we want to be able to prove that, ‘Hey, things are running smoothly. Money isn’t being spent where it shouldn’t be.’ That’s what I’m hoping for,” said Smith McKnight.

But the effort failed.

Voting against the audit were Jordan Johnson, District 1; Dennis Williams, District 2; Bobby Williams, District 5; Ben Hasan, District 6; Sean Frantom, District 7; and Francine Scott, District 9. Voting in favor were McKnight, District 3; Brandon Garrett, District 8; and Clarke, District 10. District 4 Commissioner Alvin Mason was absent.

“We’ll figure out something else,” said McKnight.

Most of her fellow commissioners say it’s a big ask with little reason to back it up.

“There’s no need to shut down the government and do a complete audit at an extremely high cost just on a whim, ‘I want to do it,’” said Dennis Williams.

Frantom said: “I’m a little concerned that we would put something on the agenda yet again when you don’t have anything. I mean if you have anything, let’s go straight to the issue.”

McKnight says the request is because of ‘inconsistencies,’ but she doesn’t want to point fingers.

“The citizens are wanting to know where the stormwater money is being spent, they’re wanting to know where the money for the infrastructure is being spent,” said Clarke.

However, that wasn’t enough.

“If there’s some justification, if there’s a reason, even a suspicion, I could kind of understand it,” said Dennis Williams.

A forensic audit, typically used to find criminal wrongdoing, would be an in-depth look at city financials, diving deeper than the annual audit required by the state.

But it would come a big cost, and tie up state and federal funding while it’s being conducted, “since the word ‘forensic’ terrifies everybody,” said Clarke.

Clarke modified the request. Instead of asking for a forensic audit, she asked for an in-depth audit.

That proposal still didn’t get enough votes.

Part of the request also asked for a separate auditor to conduct the audit.

Garrett voted in favor, but he says he’s not in favor of a forensic audit.

He is in favor of having another auditor conduct the annual audit. The city has used the same company for the past 10 years.

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