Lac La Biche County council received their monthly financial statements at the last council meeting, but once again council didn’t like the format of the financials, although what really bothered some councillors was that the financial statements didn’t balance.
Coun. Gail Broadbent, who is an accountant, had analyzed the financial documents prior to the meeting, and while she said there was some good information in them, there was still work to be done on presenting the numbers in an easy-to-digest format.
“They still don’t give us a good picture of where we’re at,” she said, adding the totals didn’t add up.
The problem of generating easy to read reports is one the county finance department has been dealing with for a while, said Rodney Boyko, director of corporate services, adding it was partly a software problem, and partly a staff-turnover and staff training issue.
But operational problems weren’t council’s concern, noted Broadbent, who went on to say that council needed correct financial information to do their job properly, and that supplying financial reports that didn’t balance was unacceptable.
“I’d be fired if I gave my clients this type of information,” she said.
Boyko said he was aware that the totals didn’t balance, but it was a result of the way the reports were presented, rather than evidence of accounting wrongdoing. The current software, he noted, makes generating reports a time-consuming task.
“There is no simple button you can push to say I want a balance sheet,” he said, adding everything had to be entered manually and these were not audited statements, but rather interim reports to give an overview of county finances. They were not, Boyko said, meant to be a detailed breakdown of the county’s financial position. They were just an overview.
What they were, said Broadbent, was unacceptable.
“It’s not reliable reporting at all.”
But Boyko assured council that the next time financial statements were presented to council they would be in an easy to understand format and they would balance.
“If this is the highest priority of council I will put all else aside,” he said.
Coun. M.J. Siebold, who has experience working with the same software the county’s finance department is using, said there was no problem with the program, but questioned whether staff were properly trained in its use. That staff were having trouble working the county’s accounting software troubled her.
“I’m appalled at what I’m hearing,” she said.
Coun. John Nowak also voiced his disappointment, saying his patience was wearing thin with trying to get accurate and understandable financial reports from county staff.
“I’m becoming very disillusioned,” he said, adding he wasn’t concerned with administration’s software issues; he just wanted accurate financial information to base his decisions on.
His frustration soon turned to threats.
“Somebody’s head is going to roll,” he said, and noting he wouldn’t be “lynched” for making decisions based on faulty information.
Coun. Guy Piquette, who remained calm, noted that while council required valid data, there was no need to make threats.
“Talking about lynching is not an appropriate comment to make at this time,” he said.
But talking about accounting was something they needed to do, noted Broadbent, who said if one of her accounting office staff provided unbalanced reports they would be fired.
“Accounting is accounting,” she said. “It needs to balance.”
Boyko and CAO Duane Coleman both promised council that the next financials delivered to council would balance.