Long-sought Rec and Parks audit finally complete

After years of demands by activists, Baltimore's Department of Recreation and Parks has finally been audited.

The audit found the agency kept erroneous financial statements, confused revenue and expenses, and lacked procedures on how employees should handle cash. The agency "did not initially provide accurate financial statements," city auditor Robert L. McCarty told the Board of Estimates on Wednesday. The agency could not figure out why its records did not match city accounting and payroll numbers, he said, and later "developed separate financial statements."

The audit also established baseline numbers for revenue, expenditures, assets and liabilities for the agency.

"It's an important start," said Chris T. Delaporte, who was head of parks and recreation for the city in the 1980s. "I've been working on this for four years. Millions of dollars flow through that agency and have for years. Frankly, we have no idea where this money has gone."

Advocates have been calling for a financial audit of the department since 2010, saying it is one of several city agencies that haven't had a complete audit in decades. In 2012, voters approved a charter amendment that requires the city to audit 13 key agencies, including Recreation and Parks, every four years.

Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake thanked the auditors, who report to Comptroller Joan M. Pratt, and the parks department for completing the project.

"I thank them for their diligence," she said. "This is not the first time that things have been left undone under previous administrations. I wasn't going to kick the can down the road. I was going to make sure it happened. There were a lot of things that operationally needed to be tightened up."

Pratt has called for increased staff to complete the audits of the 13 agencies. She has said she needs about $2.2 million in new funding to perform the audits required by the charter amendment, saying she would need to hire 28 more workers, three supervisors and 21 auditors, among others. Her staff typically performs 10 to 20 audits a year.

"The Department of Audits should be funded sufficiently," she said.

The mayor's office has moved to hire outside auditors to monitor large agencies, such as police and public works.

Harry E. Black, the city's finance director, has said hiring outside auditors is the most cost effective way to conduct the required audits.

"We're under a very tight deadline to get all 13 agencies audited in the next 21/2 years," he said.

Glad to see the first audit completed under the new law, Delaporte said he hoped the parks department will be audited every year. He praised new agency director Ernest W. Burkeen Jr. for starting a late-night basketball league.

"He's right on with that," Delaporte said.



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