Metro’s financial audits finally up to date

WASHINGTON — Being more than a month late is not usually something to celebrate. But for Metro, getting a financial audit done by the end of the year is a major milestone.

Metro’s finances have been in tatters, with some records nonexistent or difficult to find, and that led to a long 20-month audit of Metro’s fiscal year 2014 financial statements that came this summer, eight months late. The audit found 26 significant problems, and a transit agency struggling with its budget.

Because of Metro’s failed finances, the federal government put the agency under what is known as restricted drawdown, which essentially means receipts are required before federal money is paid out. That created even more financial problems for Metro with short-term borrowing.

This month, the Metro Board accepted an audit of the fiscal year 2015 financial statements that Audit Committee Chairman Jim Corcoran of Fairfax County hopes will put Metro back on track.

“And while we are 1 ½ months behind the schedule that is posted for the planned delivery of an audit, this audit was delivered in four months and will allow us to be back on time for the 2016 audit next year,” he says.

“With the receipt of this audit, Metro is now up to date on its audited financial statements, which is an important milestone in continuing to put our finances in order,” he adds.

The new audit by the firm RSM found 15 issues, four of them new.

RSM’s Dan Bonnette says some of the problems relating to payroll and fixed assets could not be fixed in the four months between audits, but Metro management has shown signs that it is working on the issues.

While Metro cooperated with the auditors, Bonnette says much of the information Metro has is not in an easily accessible format.

“There were circumstances where obtaining the information was not as easy as we would prefer, which really is the underlying reason for a number of the findings,” he says.

Metro General Manager Paul Wiedefeld says the agency will work to address the issues.

“With respect to the fiscal year ‘16 budget, as of Nov. 30 we have a favorable operating budget position which puts us in good standing for the end of the year, this is due to the tight cost management that’s been underway, and with the audit in hand, we are continuing to get our financial house in order, so I am very excited about that,” he says.

Metro Board Chairman Mort Downey, who expects to no longer be chairman in January, believes next year’s audit will be done on time, and the finances are improving.

“[This audit is] a very significant accomplishment … a step in the right direction,” he says.

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