Audit Finds Mistakes at Idaho Commission on the Arts 

Arts Commission director: "Mistakes happen."

Michael Faison, ICA executive director: "If we thought this would be a problem, we just wouldn't have done it."

Glenn Landberg

Michael Faison, ICA executive director: "If we thought this would be a problem, we just wouldn't have done it."

Following an audit concluding that Idaho Commission on the Arts inappropriately used $5,100 for entertainment expenses and found 560 accounting errors, ICA Executive Director Michael Faison is anxious to move forward.

"Mistakes happen," said Faison. "Humans make mistakes. Make new mistakes. No repeats, please."

The Audits Division of the Idaho Legislative Services Offices reviews each executive department of state government at least once every three years. Management reviews include evaluation of internal controls over financial and program activities. The most recent audit of ICA's 2007-2009 fiscal years identified "significant conditions and weaknesses in the general administrative procedures and accounting controls of the commission."

Auditors uncovered entertainment expenses totaling $5,100 for a conference ICA hosted in 2009. More than 50 organizations from across Idaho were represented at the conference, designed to help arts nonprofits practice good fiscal responsibility. The day-and-a-half-long conference, funded through the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act, included an evening at Idaho Shakespeare Festival, and $5,100 was earmarked for tickets, transportation and meals.

Auditors reminded Faison that entertainment expenses for publicly funded organizations were not allowed under federal regulations or Idaho code, a fact Faison told BW he knew before the conference. But in a formal letter of reply to the audit, he defended the expense as "an educational experience." With money for the conference coming from federal stimulus dollars, Faison described the opportunity as "one and done."

"This was all planned. Because we took them out to the festival grounds it looked like an entertainment cost, when it was, in fact, part of a larger workshop," said Faison. "If we thought this would be a problem, we just wouldn't have done it."

Faison said the evening included a speech from the festival stage concerning the public role of arts institutions in Idaho.

Faison said he respectfully disagreed with the auditor's interpretation of the expense, but said that ICA "wouldn't be doing it again anyway."

Another finding in the audit report indicated 560 accounting errors and adjustments made during the 2009 fiscal year. The audit recommended improved oversight, review and training to "improve the reliability of financial information" and "reduce the volume of errors."

"The actual number surprised me," said Faison. "When you see it on paper, you think that number sounds large."

Faison said more than half of the corrections could be attributed to salary, withholding and Social Security entries for one employee's position funded through a grant and the entries needed to be backed out and re-entered when a new grant phase began. The other half, Faison said, were estimated entries based on requests for federal grant funding. Faison said the commission has since been able to establish a line of credit for federal funds, cutting the number of requested advances.

As for future audits, Faison said, "It would disappointment me if there were any new findings."

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