- Associated Press - Friday, August 15, 2014

HATTIESBURG, Miss. (AP) - Hiring an internal auditor to strengthen Hattiesburg’s financial controls and compliance appears to have widespread support.

However, a difference of opinion has emerged over to whom the auditor would report.

Mayor Johnny DuPree said Thursday told The Hattiesburg American (https://hatne.ws/1nTHDoW) that he envisioned the internal auditor reporting to the city clerk once that position was filled. Until then, the position would report to Chief Financial Officer Sharon Waits.

But City Council President Kim Bradley expressed concerns with that arrangement in a July 31 letter sent to Attorney General Jim Hood, saying the auditor needed to operate independently.

“I strongly disagree,” Bradley wrote. “My understanding is that the council is charged with overseeing the city’s finances and financial health, and thus the integrity of its accounting and financial processes.”

The suggestion to hire an internal auditor came two years ago from the city’s longtime, private auditing firm Nicholson & Co., DuPree said.

That idea was brought forward again in a June letter included in Nicholson’s annual audit that turned up “significant deficiencies and material weaknesses” in the city’s internal financial controls that led to “qualified opinions” in the audit for the first time in 37 years.

DuPree said he expected the position to remain advertised for a minimum of seven to 10 days and up to 30 days.

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Information from: The Hattiesburg American, https://www.hattiesburgamerican.com

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