Columbia no longer paying bills twice

Columbia's accounting troubles were so extensive that it unknowingly paid the same bills twice, sometimes three times, for at least four years — including the bill for the external auditor who reported the problem.

The problem was fixed two months ago when the city implemented a process to ensure bills are paid on time.

The duplicate checks were among several "material weaknesses" outlined in a report to City Council from the city's external auditor, as part of the audit for the 2006-07 budget year.

The management letter peels back another layer of the city's accounting troubles, which date to 2005 when the city could not close its books on time. Other problems outlined in the letter include:

• Not reconciling the city's bank statements, one of the most basic accounting functions. The city's statements are reconciled through June 2008

• No formal investment policy, which led to poor decisions that cost the city millions of dollars"If we went much longer with things the way they were, it would have been tragic," city manager Charles Austin said.

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