State auditor Hector Balderas has just released an audit of the Secretary of State's Office for the time period of July 1, 2006 to June 30, 2007. According to the office, the auditors were "unable to express an opinion on the financial condition of the SOS due to questionable payments of $6,308,350 in federal voter education funds made to a contractor by the former Secretary of State Rebecca Vigil-Giron’s administration."
Among the other findings, straight from the Auditor's Office press release:
-- "From July 1, 2006 to December 31, 2006, the former SOS administration inappropriately used $29,735 in HAVA (Help America Vote Act) funds to enhance its own website;"
-- "The prior administration over allocated expenditures to the HAVA program under Section 101 by $2,923,409;" and
-- "During fiscal years 2005, 2006 and 2007, the SOS utilized processors for the statewide Voter Registration Election Management System without sufficient licensing under the SOS contract with a private company. The SOS breached the contract and owed the contractor $219,765 in licensing fees. The current SOS worked with the State Board of Finance to pay back $182,896 of that debt, but the State still owes $36,869."
Former Secretary of State Rebecca Vigil-Giron, who left office at the end of 2006, declined to comment this afternoon, saying she hadn't seen the audit. Vigil-Giron in the past has said she has done nothing wrong with HAVA money. A spokesman for current Secretary of State didn't immediately return an e-mail or a call seeking comment.
Balderas said the audit showed "severe mismanagement of federal funds." It was done by Atkinson & Co, Ltd, certified public accountants.
"The audit’s multiple findings demonstrate the severe mismanagement of federal funds that were intended to improve voter education in New Mexico,” Balderas said in a statement. "The inability of the auditors to express an opinion on the Secretary of State Office’s financial condition and the poor accountability for federal funds puts the operations of the Secretary of State at serious risk."
Other findings included in the audit were related to the SOS's payment to a media contractor of $6,271,810 over a period from August 2004 to October 2006. They came from May 2008 Election Assistance Commission audit. They were:
-- "The SOS did not inform the State’s centralized procurement office of the planned purchase;"
-- "Appeared to pay the vendor at a rate higher that the rate negotiated in the amended contract;"
-- "Appeared to pay the vendor twice for producing a single video in the amount of $186,000;"
-- "Paid the vendor in excess of the maximum amount allowed under the contract by $323,060;"
-- "Contract amounts were paid under a Letter of Understanding that was not incorporated into the contract and which was different than the basis upon which the contract was awarded;" and
-- "The contract arrangement which appears to be the basis for the contract appears to be prohibited by the procurement code."
Balderas said he remains "extremely concerned about the financial stability of the SOS's operations.
"Secretary Herrera has taken corrective action by hiring a Chief Financial Officer to manage her agency’s budget and accounting practices. This very important step will help professionalize the Secretary of State’s accounting operation," Balderas said.
Balderas said he would forward the information to the FBI, the U.S. Election Assistance Commission and Attorney General Gary King.