- Associated Press - Tuesday, September 22, 2015

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) - The Office of the State Auditor has finished examining nearly 450 government entities in New Mexico as part of a first-of-its-kind review.

The office released the findings Tuesday in an effort to make information about the financial health of state and local government more transparent and accessible to the public and policymakers.

The state’s auditors looked at data from state agencies, cities, counties and school districts and other entities. Only a small percentage of the entities were found to have audit opinions that didn’t fairly represent their financial conditions.

“New Mexico can be proud that the vast majority of our state and local governments are accounting for public dollars in a transparent and reliable manner,” Auditor Tim Keller said in a statement. “However, there are a few that are not up to par and need to address weaknesses in their financial controls immediately.”

According to the report, nearly three-quarters of the entities whose recent audits were reviewed as part of the project had some type of finding, indicating a deficiency or an issue of non-compliance.

The most common findings stemmed from weaknesses or deficiencies related to payroll. Others involved compliance with state law, budgets and grant programs.

About 40 percent of the findings were repeated from a previous year, which officials say reflects the need to focus on corrective action.

The state Public Education Department, the city of Gallup and the village of Columbus were among those with the most repeat findings, according to the report. The Public Education Department also had the most findings among the state agencies reviewed with 164, with a third of those being repeat findings.

The auditor’s office says the education department’s audit report includes charter schools. As a free-standing agency, the department had only 14 findings, eight of which were repeated.

The auditor’s office plans to release the statewide findings report each year. Keller said the report can be used to track the process of agencies and other entities as they work to shore up their accounting practices.

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