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Was ‘value-added’ audit worth it?

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Last February, the Auburn Recreation District Board selected a new accounting firm to audit us for the next three years. It’s a California state mandate. ARD staff recommended the small (two CPAs) low-bidding firm, at just under $24,000, which also were clearly the most expert. Their accountants had degrees from California state universities, had 14 and 18 years experience, and specialized in recreation districts. But (board members) Scott Holbrook and Curt Smith made it clear that they favored the larger (10 CPAs) high-bidding firm (at just under $37,000, it was $13,000, or 57 percent higher), whose auditors had degrees from the Philippines and an American online university, had five-six years experience, had never done a recreation district, and one of the auditors didn’t even have CPA certification. Smith and Holbrook’s stated reasons for paying $13,000 more for this inferiorly educated, less-experienced group of auditors was that they expected the larger firm to do a better job, and because the owner of the firm (who wouldn’t be involved in the audit) taught classes for the California Special Districts Association. The logical absurdities were astounding! Oh, did I mention that the guy representing the high-bidding firm wore a gorgeous expensive suit, was unusually charming and was a silver-tongued showman of a speaker who kept talking about the “value added” of his firm’s audits? What amazes me is that I was the only one who voted against Holbrook’s motion to spend an extra $13,000 of your taxes to hire a less-well-educated, less-experienced, less-accredited auditing team. I decided to reserve judgment until the audit came in, but it’s in now. It’s a decent audit, but there’s nothing superior about this audit compared to ARD’s previous audits. And the “value added” that the silver-tongued showman kept mentioning appears to be the additional services by his high-bidding firm that ARD could purchase to drive the cost up even further. Stay tuned: Holbrook and Smith may want to buy, and they only need one more vote to be able to again spend your tax dollars like it’s free money. Gordon Ainsleigh, ARD board member, Meadow Vista