State auditor defends timing of GTP audit release

KINSTON, NC (WITN) - The state auditor is defending the timing of an audit released on Wednesday which was critical of the former executive director and the board of the Global TransPark in Kinston.

Allen Thomas, who also previously served as Greenville's mayor, is a candidate in next week's special congressional election for the 3rd District.

Beth Wood says in her ten years as state auditor, she has never taken politics into consideration for how she does her job.

The 59-page audit says there was a lack of management oversight and cooperation, while management at GTP didn't set up internal controls that would ensure financial statements "were accurate and complete."

Some have questioned the timing of the audit's release, less than a week before the special congressional election.

Wood said the audit, which began in November, would have been completed in December had there not been numerous errors and communications with GTP staff that she said went unanswered.

The state auditor says there is no missing money from GTP, and there is nothing to implicate Thomas in any legal wrongdoing.

On Wednesday, Thomas said he inherited an operation with outdated systems, limited resources, and staff dysfunction.


State auditor statement on GTP audit

Today, North Carolina State Auditor Beth Wood issued the following statement related to the Global TransPark Authority Financial Statement Audit FYE 2018:

"Earlier this week, the Office of State Auditor released its annual financial statement audit of the Global TransPark Authority. Since that time, I have received questions about the timing of the release and its implications for the former Executive Director. I have served as State Auditor for the past ten years and have not once taken politics of any kind into consideration of how I do my job. That being said, I am not starting now.

The timeline of this audit shows that it was initiated and published in the timeliest manner possible. Since the audit began in November of 2018, auditors found financial statements full of errors as well as numerous communications with the Global TransPark that went unanswered. Had we been allowed to complete the audit as intended, this report would have been published in December, two months prior to there being a vacancy in North Carolina's 3rd Congressional district.

Allow me to be perfectly clear, this audit does not say that there is any money missing at the Global TransPark. The use of this report to send that message is misleading. It also does not implicate the former Executive director in any legal wrong doing. It is our duty as state auditors to identify areas of risk to tax payer dollars. We feel strongly that the lack of transparency and available financial records creates that risk."


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A state auditor's report released this afternoon is critical of the former executive director and the board of the Global TransPark in Kinston.

Allen Thomas, who also previously served as Greenville's mayor, is a candidate in next week's special congressional election for the 3rd District.

In the 59-page report, Auditor Beth Wood said there was lack of management oversight and cooperation, while management at GTP didn't set up internal controls that would ensure financial statements "were accurate and complete."

Because of the lack of oversight, the report says "fraud could occur and go undetected".

Thomas stepped down as GTP executive director on March 23rd to run for Congress. The report said this happened in the middle of the audit, and investigators only found out about his departure the day before through news articles.

The report also said there was "ineffective oversight" by the GTP's board of directors.

In a response, GTP's interim executive director Richard Barkes told the state auditor they agreed with recommendations, saying that management will undergo training and that they have already hired a new finance officer. Barkes also says board members, who include the state treasurer and the DOT's chief deputy secretary, will undergo training at the UNC School of Government.

In a statement to WITN, Thomas said he "inherited an operation with outdated systems, limited resources and staff dysfunction."

He said the controller had previously gone through five audits without a problem. But once it became clear that the controller was "underperforming", they made necessary changes and hired a new financial director.

Thomas added that during his time at GTP, they created the most jobs at the facility in a decade.


Allen Thomas statement

It's no secret the Global Transpark —has been an underperforming asset for many years without clear direction and had been dormant of activity.

When I was asked to take it over I was aware of it's reputation but I saw great potential for Eastern North Carolina and the entire state.

I inherited an operation with outdated systems, limited resources and staff dysfunction.

For years there had been no executive director, no economic developer, no marketing and a number of open positions. NCGTP had been an after-thought of previous administrations.

As soon as we launched into increased activity and new projects at NCGTP it became clear we would need better systems and a higher level of expertise at the Controller position. After consulting with the finance committee and leadership we began all the processes that state government requires to make these changes. We replaced the Controller with a new financial director and modernized systems to support increase of activity.

Every year NCGTP receives a state audit review. It is standard practice. The same Controller we had to replace had performed five previous audits without findings. There was no reason to assume this would be any different. Once it became clear the Controller was underperforming we made the necessary changes and proceeded accordingly. The audit from that year reflects those changes. Growing pains of upgrading a non-performing asset into a performing In this same period we also created $73M in new investment at NCGTP, the most jobs created in a decade with double the average salaries in the regional. Launched global marketing. Announced first new multi-million in new construction projects and new aerospace jobs in years.

The NCGTP also provided a tremendous public service to the region during this same time period during Hurricane Florence hosting 2,500 first responders, military and swift water rescue teams from 35 states flying and delivering over 5,000 missions to rescue citizens and drop supplies all across Eastern North Carolina during Hurricane Florence and the flooding that followed.

We appreciate the audit findings which support the changes we made and look forward to the significant projects and activity in the pipeline at NCGTP for the foreseeable future bringing new jobs and new advanced industries to Eastern North Carolina.