TRENTON, N.J. -Mercer County has earned its first "clean" audit in a number of years after an independent audit group reported that County finances contain no flaws and its financial standing is the strongest in more than a decade.
The 133-page audit, performed by The Mercadien Group of Hamilton, reviewed the financial statements in Mercer County through Dec. 31, 2006 and examined the County's compliance with state and federal laws, gauged its internal control over financial reporting, and measured the accuracy of its stated financial strength.
The audit found Mercer County has resolved two outstanding issues from the prior year and that after years of audits with multiple flaws, the County is clear of "findings," the term used by the auditor to describe potentially harmful reporting problems.
"It has taken years to bring Mercer County's finances back from the old system of limited oversight and piecemeal accounting," said Mercer County Executive Brian M. Hughes. "I'm proud to have restored integrity and excellence to the County's finances within a relatively short period of time. Our staff has worked diligently to resolve these issues, and the end result is it saves taxpayer money and improves our financial outlook both on Wall Street and at the local level."
Mercadien reported the two findings from 2005 had been resolved. The first, that the County had not installed a fixed asset accounting system, had been a finding in at least 10 prior audits, and the second, that general capital fund activity was not completely maintained in the County's computer system, dated to 2001. In 2004, there were four findings that have since been resolved.
In formally presenting the audit to the Mercer County Board of Chosen Freeholders Oct. 25, Mercadien representatives also stated the audit was completed earlier than any time in the recent past due to the high level of cooperation between Mercadien and the Hughes administration.
"It was a very cooperative process," Mercadien accountant Eugene Elias told the freeholder board.
The auditor also stated that the County surplus increased from $31 million to $37 million from 2005 to 2006. That surplus will allow the County to fund important public projects and allow it to mitigate uncontrollable expenses such as the cost of fuel, according to Hughes.
The audit recognizes the County's improved bond rating during a time when the stock market was weak and created considerable strain for both the public and private sectors.
The freeholder board last night said it was impressed with the "no findings" result of Mercadien's audit.
Freeholder Board Chairman Pasquale Colavita said he was "ecstatic" that the audit showed the County was devoid of financial flaws.
Freeholder Anthony Carabelli said in 37 years holding public office, he had "never seen a clean 'findings and recommendations' page in an audit."
"We've worked very, very hard in the last few years to rectify the financial mistakes of the past," Carabelli said.