Brittney Burns – Staff Writer
For the last 17 years, Macon County has contracted with Martin Starnes & Associates, CPAs, P.A. Martin Starnes is a North Carolina based firm that provides audit services for the majority of county and municipal governments in the state. Martin Starnes also serves as the audit firm for the town of Franklin and has done so for several years. The audit contract with Martin Starnes was approved at the February meeting of the Macon County Board of Commissioners.
Macon County first contracted with Martin Starnes in 2000 when Kim Woodley was serving as Finance Director. When Evelyn Southard became Finance Director, she continued the contract with Martin Starnes & Associates, CPAs, P.A. and when Lori Hall became Finance Director, she continued the contract as well.
“My staff and I have a good working relationship with Martin Starnes & Associates, CPAs, P.A.” said Hall. “The firm rotates the Manager level or Senior level auditor assigned to Macon County every five years. This provides a “fresh set of eyes” for the county’s audit without having to change firms. Furthermore, there are no statutorily required procurement procedures for contracts for auditing services.”
The county’s contract with Martin Starnes totals $65,150, which is the same rate the county paid last year for the annual audit. Martin Starnes did propose and increase in this year’s contract amount, but Hall negotiated on behalf of the county and was able to keep the rate flat.
“I let the firm know that one of our commissioners had complained about the 3 percent increase when the 2016 audit contract was approved and that he requested that I send out an RFP [Request for pricing] for the 2017 audit contract,” said Hall. “I asked if they could keep the 2017 fee the same as the 2016 fee. They agreed to do so.”
The audit firm doesn’t look at Macon County books remotely, the audit process takes a significant amount of time and involves considerable work for both Martin Starnes and the county finance department.
“The auditors conduct the audit in accordance with US Generally Accepted Auditing Standards, standards applicable to financial audits contained in Government Auditing Standards, Uniform Guidance, and the State Single Audit Implementation Act,” said Hall. “This guidance requires that they plan and perform the audit to obtain reasonable assurance about whether the basic financial statements are free from material misstatement. An audit involves performing procedures to obtain audit evidence about the amounts and disclosures in the financial statements.
“An audit also includes evaluating the appropriateness of accounting policies used and the reasonableness of significant accounting estimates made by management, as well as evaluating the overall presentation of the financial statements. The auditors’ procedures include tests of documentary evidence that support the transactions recorded in the accounts, the direct confirmation of cash, investments, and certain other assets and liabilities by correspondence with creditors and financial institutions. Upon completion of the audit of the basic financial statements, the auditors issue a written report addressed to the governing body of Macon County,” said Hall.
The vote to approve the contract with Martin Starnes was not unanimous, however. Commissioner Karl Gillespie cast the sole nay vote. Gillespie noted that while he appreciates the finance department’s opinion of continuing the relation with Martin Starnes because of the value in 17 years of work, he would like to see comparable prices for other audit firms. Gillespie said that anytime something comes to the board with only one option, without other price options to consider, he will continue to vote against it.