Story by Mary Morrell | Correspondent
Two recently completed audits confirm the Diocese’s compliance in its work to keep children safe and to exert vigilant stewardship over financial resources.
Joseph Bianchi, executive director of the Diocese’s Office of Child and Youth Protection, explained, “The Diocese of Trenton successfully completed an on-site audit in November and was found to be in full compliance with every article of the USCCB Charter for the Protection of Youth and Young People.”
Audits such as this have been undertaken in the Diocese for 15 years, since the adoption of the Charter, said Margaret Dziminski, the office’s associate director.
Established by the USCCB in June 2002, the Charter is a comprehensive set of procedures for addressing allegations of sexual abuse of minors by Catholic clergy. The Charter also includes guidelines for reconciliation, healing, accountability and prevention of future acts of abuse.
“Audits are done every three years by an independent agency not affiliated with the Diocese,” said Bianchi.
“The process includes providing documentation to an independent agency for review, relating to such issues as reporting allegations, background checks, training, care for victims and transparency, among other goals. In all, there are 17 articles in the charter, which are reviewed for compliance,” he noted.
In support of article 12 of the Charter, which establishes a requirement to maintain safe environment programs and standards of conduct through education and training, “the Diocese offers Virtus: Protecting God’s Children training for all adults working or volunteering with children,” said Dziminski, “and also provides training programs specifically for children in Catholic school and parish programs.”
What this successful audit means for the Diocese and her people, said Bianchi, is confidence, knowing that “as a result of our continued efforts in the area of child protection, the Diocese has been acknowledged as creating a fully safe environment for children who participate in the many programs the Diocese offers.”
In addition to child protection, the Diocese also successfully completed its annual financial audit, which is a third party review of the Diocese’s financial records and reporting. The most recent audit was completed by the national firm, WIPFLi, LLC, based in Pennsylvania.
Kevin Cimei, chief fiscal officer for the Diocese, explained that financial audits take place at the end of the fiscal year, which for the Diocese means June 30. “Typically it takes several months to first close the books for the year and then allow time for the auditors to review the accounts,” said Cimei.
Carolynn Thompson, diocesan director, Department of Finance, who has responsibility for the financial audit, explained that the process includes, first, sending the auditors information and documentation to preview, followed by several weeks of on-site work in the Chancery by the auditors.
“Financial audits,” noted Thompson, “check for compliance with generally accepted accounting procedures, also known as GAAP,” which is a common set of accounting principles, standards and procedures that companies must follow when they compile their financial statements.
“Auditors check bank and investment account balances as well as confirm receivable balances with other parties. They review accounting for compliance with GAAP to ensure that what is reported is accurate and fairly represents the financial condition of the organization,” Thompson said.
At the end of the audit process, usually in November, the auditors personally present the audit report to Bishop David M. O’Connell, C.M.; Msgr. Thomas Gervasio, vicar general, and the Diocesan Finance Council, providing them with an opportunity to ask questions or address concerns, she explained.
The comprehensive audit, which covered the financial period of 2016/2017, received an unqualified opinion, which is the highest opinion that can be given, said Cimei. It means the auditor has found the financial statements are presented fairly, and recognizes that the finance department and diocesan leadership strive to ensure that financial operations of the Diocese are well managed.
It all comes down to stewardship, said Cimei. “We take our financial responsibility seriously to ensure that diocesan resources are well cared for,” he said.
Speaking of the important role of benefactors to the work of the Diocese, and noting that she is included in the planning process for projects like the Annual Catholic Appeal and the Faith to Move Mountains campaign, Thompson said the audit is a process that can reassure donors that “if you give funds to the Diocese, you can be sure we live up to everything we say we are going to do with those monies.”
Thompson also stressed that this most recent successful audit “is a continuation of what’s been done in the past,” noting that good audits are a part of diocesan history since its inception and something for which “the Diocese has reason to be proud.”