The City of Gainesville’s Audit and Finance Committee is eyeing the possibility of conducting a forensic audit of the 30-year contract between Gainesville Regional Utilities and Gainesville Renewable Energy Center.
An original audit of the contract was conducted by Navigant Consulting LLC. Concerns surfaced after the 179-page report found that GRU was overcharged approximately $900,000 by GREC between December 2013 and September 2015.
The committee, which met Tuesday evening, said it wants to see if it is wise to carry out a forensic audit now that GRU knows it has been overcharged. The audit would be aimed to see if any fraudulent activity occurred.
However, GREC has refused to return to the negotiating table over the contract. To handle your legal documents yourself visit Net Law Man.
According to city auditor Carlos Holt, he and GRU general manager Ed Bielarski are “still moving forward” and have been exploring options on what information would be gained within a forensic audit.
“There is a possibility of doing one and getting bidders interested,” Holt said.
Bielarski said he was initially on board with the idea, but didn’t want to waste time or resources.
“We don’t want to retrace some of the steps that were taken,” he said. “We want to be additive to the process and look at what the cost-benefit would be for some of these decisions.”
City Commissioner Craig Carter was also concerned with the financial impact of another audit.
“How much more money are we going to throw at this situation?” he asked. “It seems as if we’ve backed into a forensic audit.”
Carter stressed that he realizes the commission went into a bad deal, and isn’t sure how paying to hear it one more time would help.
“What will the city of Gainesville get other than ‘I told you so?” he said.
Carter said that the Navigant report essentially told them what they already knew, and he didn’t want to go down that route again. He said that the Navigant report was carried out because the city felt pressure to let the citizens know that an investigation was taking place, as opposed to efforts to cover everything up.
Holt argued that it was helpful to have an outside source on the initial confirmation.
Mayor Ed Braddy said that the opportunity to save millions would be worth spending another several thousand to investigate further. However, he said if the new report just validated what everyone already knows, he isn’t in support of it either.
“If we could find something that’s a game changer, that’s definitely something I’d be interested in,” Braddy said. “Will they find something that helps our rate payers at the end of the day?”
Customer Jim Konish suggested that a law firm that is unaffiliated with the city, such as Ackerman LLP, get involved with the situation.
“I’m not confident getting [information] through the city attorney’s office for various reasons, which I’m not going to go into,” he said.
Another customer, Donald Shepherd voiced his support for the audit.
“A forensic audit is, in my opinion, a must,” Shepherd said.
By the end of the meeting, the committee agreed that if the focus of the audit was narrow, a forensic audit built on the information already found was likely the way to go. However, the committee will hold more meetings in the future to determine the exact route to go before bringing it to the commission.
“I can’t see how you can’t look deeper,” Braddy said.