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Completion of audit into Arkansas governor's $19,000 lectern has been pushed back to April

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — A report detailing the audit of a $19,000 lectern purchased for Arkansas Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders will be completed later than expected after the governor's office said it needed more time for its response, the state's legislative auditor told lawmakers on Wednesday.

Legislative Auditor Roger Norman told a legislative committee in an email that a draft report has been completed of the audit requested last year of the lectern — which last fall gained national attention and became the focus of intense scrutiny — would be completed in early April, rather than the end of the month timeline he originally said.

Norman said the governor's office requested an extension for its “management response," which is included in reports issued by the Division of Legislative Audit, and that response is due Friday. Legislative Audit conducts more than 1,000 reviews of state agencies, school districts and local governments every year.

The 3 1/4-foot-tall (1-meter-tall) blue and wood paneled lectern was bought in June with a state credit card for $19,029.25 from an events company in Virginia. The Republican Party of Arkansas reimbursed the state for the purchase on Sept. 14, and Sanders’ office has called the use of the state credit card an accounting error. Sanders’ office said it received the lectern in August.

Sanders, a Republican who served as press secretary for former President Donald Trump, has dismissed questions about the lectern as a “manufactured controversy,” and the item has not been seen at her public events. Sanders' office did not immediately respond to a request for comment Wednesday.

It's not clear when and how the report will be released the public. The co-chairs of the Legislative Joint Auditing Committee could order the report’s early release, or it could be released at a special meeting ordered by either co-chair or by a request from 10 members of the panel. Otherwise the report won’t be released until the committee’s next regularly scheduled meeting in June.