The State Auditor has retracted the report on the audit of the city of Williston, with city officials stating that they were not provided adequate response time, and that the report itself is incomplete.
On Monday, Oct. 28, The North Dakota Office of the State Auditor released the city’s annual audit, stating that the office had found problems with the Williston’s financial practices. State Auditor Josh Gallion highlighted several areas of concern within the report.
“In looking at the financial practices of the city, our audit found several areas where officials could make improvements to ensure that all information is accurately disclosed in the city’s financial statements,” Gallion said in a statement.
Just a day later, the Auditor’s Office retracted the report, which Williston City Administrator David Tuan said was done to allow the city to provide information that the office had requested to make the report more complete.
Tuan said he was unaware that the report was coming out, as the city was still in the process of providing the information that the Auditor was seeking, specifically in regards to the Williston Basin International Airport project and the Sloulin Field redevelopment.
“Back and forth for about the last month (the city) has been responding to multiple requests for information,” Tuan told the Williston Herald. “From the get-go they’ve had more focus and more interest on two topics — primarily the airport and the Sloulin Field redevelopment. Those were areas of focus for them, and I will say that I’m not surprised, just because they are both big projects, in terms of finance and in terms of scope they’re both very big.”
Tuan said the city had responded to some of the inquiries and were in the process of responding to others when the report came out Monday afternoon. He said he spoke with Gallion about the report on Tuesday and told him he believed the report was based on incomplete information.
“I felt like we hadn’t completed those areas of review, and we still wanted an opportunity to respond to their concerns as we had been afforded for the rest of the audit,” Tuan explained. “He agreed to go back to the audit and consider our submittal of information. That’s a good thing. I think there’s still work to be done on that. I think it’s a broad enough topic that it’s possible they didn’t understand what they were looking at, but I also felt like they rushed to get this out there and made some assumptions that weren’t accurate.”
Tuan added that previous audits performed by independent agencies had reviewed the same contract and financial documents as the state had, and had found none of the same concerns. As an additional measure, the city said they use a private auditing firm to the review the State Auditor’s areas of concern and provide opinions and recommendations for improvement.
“I really look forward to setting the record straight for the public so they understand that we are following the best practices for financial record keeping and that we are disclosing all relationships and all contracts.” Tuan.
The city will be working on the report for the next week or so to provide the information the Auditor’s Office had requested, and that the office will release an updated audit once that information has been reviewed.
In a news release sent shortly after 4:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Oct. 29, Gallion’s office said it would consider new information provided by Williston staff.
“The information received from the city administrator and city attorney will be reviewed. Once we make a final determination on the information, we will update and reissue the report,” said State Auditor Joshua Gallion. “We want to make sure we’re providing accurate information to the citizens of Williston.”