Another audit turned in months after it was due reveals the state Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management still has problems with finances and management—some of which date back years—but is showing some signs of improvement. The 2016 audit was publicly released in late October when State Auditor Tim Keller sent a letter back to the department’s secretary, M. Jay Mitchell. The independent audit reveals 14 significant problems, some of which were also found in previous years’ audits. NM Political Report requested an interview with Mitchell or the department’s Chief Financial Officer, Sarah Peterson. The public information officer could not make either available for an interview, but Mitchell did respond via email.
As we wrote in a story published earlier today, the New Mexico Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management just submitted its 2016 audit to the Office of the State Auditor. That audit hasn’t yet been released publicly, and that may take weeks or months. In the department’s 2015 audit, turned in nearly a year late, auditors found 19 significant problems and noted that “little progress” was made in passing through FEMA money to local governments and tribes. That audit also appears to show that staff leadership was either unwilling or unable to share the information accountants needed to understand what’s happening with its finances and grants. The independent auditors, for example, couldn’t say with certainty whether the agency’s financial records were reliable, and instead had to give the Auditor’s Office what’s called a “disclaimer of opinion.”
Related story: Homeland Insecurity: How ready is New Mexico for when disaster strikes? Here are some of the recommendations auditors offered the department in the 2015 audit.
David Silver thinks about the bad things: floods, fires, nuclear meltdowns, zombie apocalypses. As the city of Santa Fe’s emergency management director, it’s his job and, though that last one might sound goofy, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention a few years ago created a graphic novel about a zombie pandemic moving across the country. Silver chuckles at the campaign. It was a great way to get people thinking about emergency preparedness, he says. Whether preparing for roving bands of the recently reanimated or a natural or human-caused disaster, the steps are the same: have a communication plan, keep an emergency pack on hand and know who to trust.