Audit: Montana Financial Statements Error-free

Last year's mistakes prompted the governor's office to put in place new protocols

By BOBBY CAINA CALVAN, Associated Press

HELENA — A new audit released this week says Montana’s financial statements are error-free this time — unlike a year ago when an audit revealed scores of mistakes and cited a lack of internal controls that could have exposed the errors sooner.

Last year’s mistakes prompted the governor’s office to put in place new protocols and hire a new state accountant.

“We knew we had a problem. It was very apparent. And everyone else knew we had a problem,” said Sheila Hogan, the director of Montana’s Department of Administration.

While state officials described some of last year’s errors as simple mistakes — such as dropping zeros from large numbers — the errors could have affected the state’s bond rating. But after last year’s audit, which covered the 2013-14 fiscal year, a Moody’s official told the Associated Press that there were concerns about the weakness of the state’s internal controls but saw no indication of worsening conditions in the state’s finances.

Hogan said she took full responsibility for last year’s failures, but said her department has “righted its ship.”

She put in place a new team, including hiring a new state accountant to oversee a staff of five other accountants and a supervisor who put together the state’s Comprehensive Financial Report.

Hogan said her department has also improved internal controls, including establishing written protocols that, she said, would help detect errors beyond the current administration.

The routine audit is conducted by the Legislative Audit Division. The current audit covered a one-year period ending June 30, 2015.

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