State issues key financial report, nine months late

More than nine months behind schedule, the state of Iowa has released its Comprehensive Annual Financial Report for the fiscal year that ended on June 30, 2020. The report was posted to the Iowa Department of Administrative Services website on October 5.

Under normal circumstances, the state would have published this report in late December 2020. However, Iowa State University has had significant accounting problems since switching to the Workday computer system for financials at the beginning of the 2020 fiscal year. State government entities typically submit their fiscal year-end financials to the state by October 1, but ISU was still sending supplemental pieces six months later.

Deputy State Auditor Marlys Gaston told the Iowa Board of Regents last month that state auditors anticipated sending an internal control letter to ISU regarding misstatements or erroneous information in some of the university’s financial statements.

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ISU accounting problems delay many other state audits

Accounting problems at Iowa State University have delayed not only Iowa’s Comprehensive Annual Financial Report for fiscal year 2020, but also dozens of annual reports on state government entities.

The ongoing issues at ISU have pushed other audit work months behind schedule, Deputy State Auditor Marlys Gaston explained during a 20-minute presentation to the Iowa Board of Regents on September 15. In addition, Gaston told the governing body for Iowa’s state universities the State Auditor’s office expects to issue an internal control finding to ISU. That rarely happens for the Regents institutions and indicates that ISU’s financial statements for FY2020 included inaccurate information.

ISU switched to the Workday computer system for accounting at the beginning of the 2020 fiscal year. The subsequent challenges raise questions about what will happen when most state government agencies transition to Workday for accounting, which is supposed to occur during the summer of 2022.

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State financial report more than six months overdue

Iowa still has not finalized its Comprehensive Annual Financial Report for the fiscal year that ended on June 30, 2020. That report is typically published by the end of December, but Iowa State University was more than six months late in providing its year-end financial data to the Iowa Department of Administrative Services, which compiles the annual reports.

ISU’s problems with extracting financial data coincided with the university’s switch to the Workday computer system for accounting, which happened on July 1, 2019–the beginning of the 2020 fiscal year. Although many people spent months trying to submit ISU’s fiscal year 2020 data to the state, the university submitted “incomplete and very draft financial statements” in February 2021, more than four months after the normal time frame for state government entities to send complete, auditable data to the Department of Administrative Services.

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Iowa Republicans have abandoned executive branch oversight

Governor Kim Reynolds has been lucky at key points in her political career. Terry Branstad passed over more experienced contenders to select her as his 2010 running mate, allowing a little-known first-term state senator to become a statewide elected official. Six years later, Donald Trump won the presidency and named Branstad as an ambassador, setting Reynolds up to become governor without having to win a GOP primary first.

Most important, Reynolds has enjoyed a Republican trifecta her entire four years as governor. Not only has she been able to sign much of her wish list into law, she has not needed to worry that state lawmakers would closely scrutinize her administration’s work or handling of public funds.

During the legislative session that wrapped up last month, the GOP-controlled House and Senate rejected every attempt to make the governor’s spending decisions more transparent. They declined to hold even one hearing about questionable uses of federal COVID-19 relief funds or practices at state agencies that disadvantaged thousands of Iowans.

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Iowa set to pay off Workday contract this month

The state of Iowa should be able to pay the remainder on its contract to acquire the Workday software system once Governor Kim Reynolds signs the final appropriations bill lawmakers approved before adjourning on May 19.

Senate File 615, the so-called “standings” bill, allocates $23.23 million from the state’s general fund to the Office of Chief Financial Officer during the current fiscal year, which ends on June 30. That money is to be used for “implementation of a new state central personnel, accounting, and budget system.”

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ISU's Workday problems still delaying state financial report

The state of Iowa’s Comprehensive Annual Financial Report for the 2020 fiscal year may be finalized by the end of June, six months later than the usual publication date.

Staff at the Iowa Department of Administrative Services compile the report using data provided by state government entities, and for many years have completed that work by December 31. However, Iowa State University (ISU) struggled to provide accurate, auditable data for the fiscal year that ran from July 2019 through June 2020. The reporting problems coincided with the year the university switched to the Workday computer system for accounting.

While other state government units sent their year-end financials by the usual deadline of October 1, 2020, ISU completed that process more than six months later, in early April.

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