Improving Financial Management in Tennessee Cities and Towns

by the University of Tennessee Municipal Technical Advisory Service, TN for the TLG 2019 Innovation Showcase program

Dec 19, 2018

Theme: Reality Focused, Results Driven

In 2006, MTAS finance consultants noted that there were certifications required for many positions within municipal government but finance officers were not required to maintain a certification related to government finance. Also at the time, there was a change in the United States GAO-generally accepted Government Auditing Standards independence rules.  The rule change prohibited auditors from performing duties considered to be the work of the management being audited. The audit client also must possess sufficient skills, knowledge and experience to oversee non-audit services. Non-audit services are basic tasks that the client should be completing such as bank account reconciliations, adjusting and closing journal entries, and general bookkeeping.

The new requirements exposed a gap between the knowledge and abilities of municipal finance officers and the required level of expertise needed to meet GAO standards.  Municipal staff simply were not equipped to handle their new responsibilities.

In response to the evident skill gap, MTAS staff presented the Certified Municipal Finance Officer (CMFO) program to the Tennessee Division of Municipal Audit and the State Comptroller of the Treasury. The program proposal gained strong support and MTAS and the Division of Municipal Audit office jointly drafted legislation to require the certification program statewide. The program has far exceeded expectations.

The CMFOs are better equipped to communicate with state oversight agencies, auditors, financial advisors and other financial institutions. CMFOs have been given knowledge that covers many areas of municipal operations which will help improve operations as this information is shared with the governing body and department heads. It is quite common for cities to have more than one CMFO and the largest cities have several ranging from 10 to 40.

The program has gained a reputation for being the go-to training program for municipal financial officials in Tennessee. 

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