Fiscal scrutineer John Marshall Lee has thrown down a challenge. “I have purchased ten $10 gift cards and I will make an award of one card to anyone who bothers to read any part of the CAFR and “find fault” financially, grammatically, schematically, or transparently with what is contained there by responding on OIB until the ten cards are gone.
City of Bridgeport Finances: “There ought to be an audit!”
Taxpayers of Bridgeport, as well as those who run for office to represent taxpayers, there is such a report. It generally runs fewer than 200 pages and is published in January of each year about six months after the June 30 close of each fiscal year. Lots of charts and tables it is true for the illustration of data, but also a fair amount of narrative that should not intimidate a 5th grader who is reading at grade level. The CAFR (The Comprehensive Annual Financial Report), along with separate audit reports on the handling of Federal and State funds received each year by our City auditor, can be accessed from City website> Departments> Finance> for any year in the past ten years.
Why is there such an audit? It is because “State law requires” the action. Does anyone currently employed in municipal government hold an annual meeting to review this with curious or furious taxpayers (such as a Finance Board might hold, if Bridgeport had a “Finance Board?”) Does the City Council make provisions themselves to review the document with taxpayers in a public hearing? Again, silence. What do we get for more than $250,000 in professional fees annually? Aren’t you curious?
People ask me why I attempt to inform my fellow citizens and raise the level of public Open, Accountable, Transparent and Honest governance. It is a necessary function in a democratic republic. When you and I went to school, we were questioned, quizzed, tested, and reviewed in numerous ways to see whether we had learned the course materials as well as a rational approach to future learning. So who grades the City on Finance activities at this time? You can do it. See where the Finance Director has problems with “periods,” actually decimal points that confuse the difference between hundreds of thousands and hundreds of millions of expenditures? (Page 11) What about spelling? Do we have a Spelling Bee Champion? Finance needs help. (Page 55) Finally, do you know what the largest liability in the City is? (Page 74) Goes by the acronym, OPEB, which stands for Other Post-Employment Benefits. About One Billion dollars of obligations and we have set aside around $100,000 against that. And who has been tasked to monitor? Who are the OPEB Trustees referenced on page 74??
I have purchased ten $10 gift cards and (assuming CEO Grimaldi has no objection or liability) I will make an award of one card to anyone who bothers to read any part of the CAFR and “find fault” financially, grammatically, schematically, or transparently with what is contained there by responding on OIB until the ten cards are gone. When you report the problem, issue or concern you discover to OIB, please identify the narrative or data, and provide the relevant page number and paragraph. I will respond and confer your reward. Dunkin, McDonalds, Buffalo Chicken, etc. What’s your pleasure? Your threshold to enter the games? Will this incentive to public information or education work? Your chance to register your observation, just like election time in Bridgeport? No ABS. Time will tell.