The woman who first asked for an FBI investigation into Rio Nuevo, Ally Miller, is now calling for greater transparency and tighter controls on finances before moving forward with spending on Tucson’s Rio Nuevo District. “Dwelling on the past will keep us from moving forward, however moving forward with the same level of incompetence and lack of financial controls is a disgrace and will result in more of the same,” said Miller.
Miller is challenging the business leaders and the politicians who answer to them, who are more than ready to move forward with more spending. “I have a significant problem with this approach. Every citizen has an ownership interest in the government via taxes paid each year and entrusted to elected officials, and there is an expectation these funds will be properly managed,” said Miller.
After reviewing the forensic audit findings of the West of I-10 projects performed by Regier, Carr and Monroe, LLP’s CPAs, it is clear both the City of Tucson and Rio Nuevo Board lack the financial controls to ensure public monies are accounted for properly, says Miller. She cites an excerpt from the findings of the Rio Nuevo Westside forensic audit: “There were significant gaps in the information provided by the city. The missing documentation limited our ability to test the support of many of the expenditures incurred. Based upon procedures performed, we identified $33, 849,702.77 of questioned costs. For the purposes of this report a ‘questioned’ cost is defined as: a cost not supported by adequate documentation, a cost that is unnecessary or unreasonable, or a cost that is a violation of the law, regulation or contract.”
Many financial experts, and accountants, like Miller, who has her MBA from the University of Arizona’s Eller College of Business, have raised the question as to whether the requirements in the Sarbannes Oxley Act (SOX) should apply to government accounting. Sarbannes Oxley, currently applies to publically traded firms to enhance accountability to the shareholders. Sarbannes Oxley imposed the risk associated with honest financial reporting directly on the management of corporations. Corporate executives and senior management are now held personally liable for the accuracy of financial statements and are required to establish an independent audit committee.
“With the Rio Nuevo scandal and millions of dollars missing, coupled with the inability of the City Finance Director to produce financial documentation supporting the millions of dollars in expenditures, it has become abundantly clear proper financial practices and internal audit controls are sorely lacking in both the City of Tucson and Rio Nuevo TIF District,” said Miller.
Miller says the public’s trust has been broken, which is why she decided run for the Pima County Board of Supervisors.
“During my investigation of Rio Nuevo and after meeting with procurement officers who were unable to produce contracts, statements of work or documentation supporting expenditures, it was clear proper financial controls were not in place,” said Miller. It is at this point Miller contacted the FBI and Attorney General’s office to investigate the various projects of Rio Nuevo.
It wasn’t long after that, Miller decided to run for office. She says that she saw the need for qualified people to run for office who could read and understand the numbers before them.
Miller is not alone. The Tucson Tea Party, whose focus continues to remain on smaller government, fiscal responsibility, and greater transparency in government has also been paying close attention to the recent activities of the reconstituted Rio Nuevo board. Ralph Kayser, primary organizer of the Tucson Tea Party attended the recent board meeting and warned the board, “We are an engaged electorate…We will be watching everything you do.”