Auditor: Checkbook error 'fundamental'

SANTA FE (KRQE) — A family not balancing its checkbook might mean checks bounce or there's less money in the bank account than they thought.

The state not balancing its checkbook for 6 years won't cause checks to bounce, but NM Department of Finance and Administration Secretary Tom Clifford says estimates have the state $70 million short of where it thought it was.

In the Governor's budget proposal, $70 million from cash reserves was set aside for the problem, although the issue was buried in a budget document appendix and not highlighted in the presentation or at Tuesday's State of the State address.

Finding out exactly how far off the books are could take months while an outside consultant sorts through and reconciles millions of transactions dating back years.

The problem was first uncovered in the fall of 2011 under the Governor Martinez's administration, but it seems to have started in 2006 under the Richardson administration when the SHARE system was implemented much faster than recommended and without properly training all of the state employees who use it.

The install cost a little more than $30 million. The system was not heavily tested before it was started up in July.

Months later, after early complaints from several state agencies state auditor Hector Balderas suspected something was wrong. He asked lawmakers for $250,000 - $500,000 to conduct a special SHARE audit.

The legislature approved $150,000 but Governor Bill Richardson vetoed it.

Balderas calls the checkbook balancing issue a major mistake.

"It's fundamental," Balderas said. "In essence the state of New Mexico bought a new cash register but failed to put tape in the cash register."

The balancing problem isn't expected to be fixed until July. System upgrades and training are set to cost about $11 million.

Although the problems occurred primarily under the Richardson administration, Clifford took responsibility Thursday.

"The state has really, we've really let people down," Clifford said. "We've let taxpayers down by letting this situation evolve to this point. We're doing our best to turn that around."

A call to a Richardson spokesperson late Thursday afternoon was not returned at the time this story was written. A Governor's office spokesperson told News 13 Martinez was unavailable for an interview.

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New Mexico (change)

New Mexico is located in the southwestern region of the U.S. Inhabited by Native American populations for many centuries, New Mexico has also been part of Imperial Spain, part of Mexico, and a U.S. territory.
Offices & Officials

Governor: Susana Martinez
Lieutenant Governor: John Sanchez
Attorney General: Gary King
Secretary of State: Dianna J. Durán

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