Williamsport, Pa. —The city is moving closer to accepting the findings of the 2019 city audit as Williamsport takes additional steps to secure its technological and cybersecurity assets.
Referencing “the lost years” of accurate financial reporting by the city prior to 2020 during Tuesday’s finance committee meeting on Zoom, Councilwoman Liz Miele, committee chair, asked about being able to have better accounting for the impending 2020-2022 audit’s
Tracey Rash, a representative of the firm that is auditing city finances, said the audits are still ongoing and that she is focused on completing the 2023 audit because, according to her, she can guarantee that public money “wasn’t inappropriately placed in other areas” for the budget year
According to Mayor Derek Slaughter, the timeframe is uncertain to receive information relating to the 2023 city audit. “It’s difficult to say right now,” the mayor said.
Kim Stank, an independent auditor assisting in the audit process, said the city audit’s for 2020-2022 is going to have “the same disclaimer of opinion” as the 2019 findings and the hope is to have a “clean audit” of city finances by the time the 2023 audit is finalized
The 2023 city audit is expected to be the first audit where independent auditors are willing to officially sign-off on city finances without a “disclaimer of opinion.”
Councilman Eric Better made the inquiry as to why the audit for the River Valley Transit Authority (RVTA), a separate agency, is omitted from the 2019 city audit. Rash said RVTA is in the process of concluding the 2022 audit and hinted that the RVTA audit is not included in the city audit in order to better manage the process and keep the financials on separate ground.
“We’re getting the final information on that for their audits,” she said
The auditors, Rash added, are proceeding with caution because events or other findings have the potential to change the final result.
“By the time we get to ‘clean audits’ in 2023, RVTA audits are gone,” said Stank.
The Williamsport Parking Authority (WPA), according to Rash, is not current on audits and is behind as far back as 2019.
Beiter asked what impact the pending audits may have as it relates to the ongoing investigation of city finances by multiple state and federal agencies
The debt limit for the city of Williamsport is $62 million, which is the total amount of debt that the city is allowed to take on, according to Miele.
However, the full accounting of taxpayer dollars “erroneously put in other accounts or misappropriated,” according to Slaughter, has the potential to increase the city debt to possibly over $30 million. “It’s all stuff we’re working through,” he said.
The city has plans to contract services with Mimecast, a global technology company, to further protect and insulate the city email server. According to Kris Black, city information technology director, Mimecast is a way to guarantee that the city can “very securely” know “what’s going in and out.”
“They aggressively test our emails to make sure they’re coming from us,” Black said. “It should also knock down our cyber insurance as well.”
The service is for a one-year term and renewed yearly. It’s expected to cost $13,022.30 per year and will come out of the contracted services portion of the city budget once approved at the next city council meeting on Thursday. Black said Mimecast does not offer a multi-year option.
Miele asked Black if he believes that the city is taking every step possible in order to protect its cybersecurity infrastructure.
“We believe so,” Black replied.
The next city council meeting is 7 p.m. on Thursday, Oct. 26 on the third floor of the Trade and Transit Centre, 144 West Third St.