HARLINGEN — For the first time, a distinct type of audit might be following the money from City Hall as far as Valley International Airport.
Earlier this week, the city commission’s new majority launched plans to review proposals from six companies ranging from certified public accounting firms to management consultants vying to conduct a performance audit aimed at determining the city management’s efficiency and effectiveness.
The audit would focus on City Manager Dan Serna’s management of city operations, likely to include departments such as the city manager’s office, public works, the municipal court and the airport, City Commissioner Frank Puente said Wednesday.
Puente said the audit would also likely include City Attorney Ricardo Navarro, who commissioners fired last week after about five years on the job.
“We want to make sure everything is on level,” he said, referring to the audit. “I want to go back — are we losing money, making money and is everything on level on how budgets are operating? No matter how much money we spend, I’m sure it’ll pay for itself. Our departments will be able to operate more efficiently after the audit.”
Majority mulls firing Serna
Meanwhile, commissioners have been considering firing Serna.
In late June, the new four-member majority called for the performance audit weeks before revising Serna’s contract, removing a clause calling for four commissioners’ votes along with the mayor’s consent to fire him with “good cause,” while the original 2015 contract allowed a three-member majority to fire him without cause.
As part of the contract’s revision, commissioners agreed to honor the clause giving Serna a year’s worth of severance pay if he’s fired without good cause.
Audit’s scope might determine cost
During a meeting, Mayor Chris Boswell suggested commissioners set the audit’s scope of work to help determine its cost.
“We have to narrow the scope,” he said during the Sept. 1 meeting, referring to the firms presenting proposals for the job. “On internal audits that they’ve done previously, they really have focused only on certain departments. One of the things we’re going to have to figure out is how much this is going to cost us. So if you’re going to do one department, it’s going to be ‘X.’ If you’re going to do 20 departments, it’s going to be ‘X’ times 20. We have to understand what that pricing is.”
To conduct such audits, Booth Management Consulting, a prospective firm from Columbia, Md., presented information showing it’s charged from $320,000 to $10 million, the latter for an audit of the U.S. Office of Inspector General, Boswell said.
Commissioners to rank, pick auditing firm
During discussions, Commissioner Richard Uribe requested commissioners rank the six firms presenting proposals for the job.
“I want each individual commissioner to come up with their recommendation,” he said. “I want you to be able to make your own informed decision.”
Uribe requested commissioners pick two to three companies before interviewing the firms to select the finalist.
Meanwhile, Boswell suggested commissioners request city auditor Danny Coyle, who works under commissioners, review the proposals.
“This is basically what he does,” Boswell said, comparing Coyle’s audits with performance audits. “What these firms are proposing to do is what he’s been doing over the last five years — exact same thing. He’s done dozens of departments in a super professional manner.”
Commissioner Rene Perez agreed.
“Neither of us on the commission is an auditor — this is not what we do,” he said. “This is what he actually does so I would value his input. Ultimately, it’s our decision.”
Firms vying for the job
The firms presenting proposals include Booth Management Consulting, McConnell Jones of Houston, Baker Tilly of Austin, Ernst & Young of Houston, MGT Consulting of Tampa, Fla., and Moss Adams of Dallas.