Indian Market: $60,680
Baby pageant: $1,800
Total revenue: $428,230
Prizes-rodeo, powwow, other: $100,344
Indian rodeos: $26,271
Equipment rentals: $15,931
Unidentified expense: $8,050
Other activities/Events: $5,225
Undeposited money: $359
Total expenses: $391,654
TOTAL PROFIT: $36,576
The Northern Navajo Nation Fair Board could have managed its funds and activities better, according to the report released by the Navajo Nation Office of the Auditor General on March 29.
"We were surprised that they made profit, but they could have made more," said Elizabeth Begay, Navajo Nation auditor general.
The profit was a surprise partly because the Northern Navajo Nation Fair Board, known in the past by several other names, has previously claimed to have made little profit. For 20 years, the board refused to report its numbers because, as a nonprofit, it was not required to do so.
Unsubstantiated allegations that fair officials were pocketing thousands of dollars surfaced time and again among officials themselves, resulting in the removal of several officials over the past few years. In response, the tribe's resources and development committee approved a resolution deeming the fair board a for-profit organization, which means it can be audited. The committee noted that it hoped for less mismanagement as a result.
The fair board was paired with the Navajo Nation Fair Office, which now is responsible for managing the fair and working with the board.
The office and the board now have to report their numbers after the fair, which takes place each year during the first weekend in October.
"This year should be a lot better," said Russell Begaye, former fair board president. Begaye serves as the area's tribal council delegate.
Begaye said that while the report was not all positive, the fair board now has a clearer idea of what activities need more supervision.
Last year, the fair generated $428,230 in revenue, enough to cover $391,654 in operating costs. But the fair also had about $65,000 in "lost revenue," the report found. In other words, the report found that in addition to the fair's $36,600 in profit, the fair could have made $65,000 more.
The fair made most of its revenue from ticket sales, which were about $185,000. The carnival brought it about $75,000, and the Indian Market about $60,700.
The largest expenses were the prizes, which cost about $100,300. Labor costs were about $63,300, and sanitation and utilities ran about $39,200.
The Indian Market and parade were mentioned often in the report, not only because of missed opportunities to make revenue, but also because they were poorly organized and left many disgruntled participants.
Nearly $44,000 was lost because almost half of the 315 vendor spaces were not used for the full duration of the fair. Each space cost between $300 and $500 to rent, and only 183 spaces were fully paid for.
The report found many other areas where money could have been better spent.
While the fair's greatest income nearly $185,000 came from the ticket sales, the fair could have brought in about $9,000 more if about 625 one-day and four-day walk-in, parking and VIP passes had not been given away.
Another $11,900 was lost when nearly 1,700 out of 2,000 posters did not sell. The posters sell at $7 each.
"The Fair Board should capitalize on all revenue generating activities during the Fair," the report stated.
Other expenditures had no explanation or were poorly recorded, such as an $8,000 cash withdrawal, which Begaye said was used to purchase a $16,000 trailer that the fair board used as an office last year.
Other expenditures that did not have documentation include $4,600 in rodeo expenses and $35,800 operation expenses. Nine of 11 checks, amounting to nearly $45,700, were not signed by both the fair board and the fair office.
"We could not verify the propriety of expenses that lacked documentation. Consequently, we question the validity of these undocumented expenses," the report stated.
Further, the auditor's office found that vendors for the Indian Market were unaware of who to contact, how to contact them and where to go. Workers also had little monitoring from the fair board, and the board did not follow Internal Revenue Service guidelines. IRS forms were not issued to the 35 winners who received more that $600 in prizes, 35 workers who were paid wages and stipends and 18 contractors paid more than $600.
The fair board and office hope to resolve issues that they can address but already are looking toward this year's fair. The board plans to submit a corrective action plan within the next month, according to the board's response to the audit report.
"The Northern Navajo Nation Fair Board hopes to accomplish a trusting relationship once again with the surrounding communities and restore the reputation of the Northern Navajo Nation Fair in good faith, honesty, and integrity," said fair board chairwoman Sophina Tyler, in the board's response.
Jenny Kane can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org; 505-564-4636. Follow her on Twitter @Jenny_Kane.