Financial fine tuning turning to Central schools

After spending the past couple of years trying to improve its financial record keeping, the Central school system is applying that same scrutiny to its five schools.

Central High School is the first school examined, undergoing an audit in the fall of its financial procedures. Superintendent Michael Faulk said he used that audit as the training ground for new staff accountant Marilyn Rogers and she will be checking on other schools in the future.

“Part of her responsibility is to make unannounced audits at schools, so they have to be on their toes,” Faulk said.

Rogers’ hiring came after years of financial red flags raised by the firm Hannis T. Bourgeois during the system’s annual audits, and by the Louisiana Legislative Auditor’s Office. Prior to Rogers’ hiring a few months ago, Central was using part-time bookkeeping help.

The audit of Central High School, which was conducted by Hannis T. Bourgeois, was posted online Monday by the Legislative Auditor’s Office.

Faulk said the audit also was prompted by the change of principal in June from Bob Wales, who was transferred to Central Office, and the promotion of Assistant Principal David Prescott.

“Whenever we transfer principals, we do an audit,” Faulk said. “Mr. Prescott really wanted one and wanted to see what issues there were.”

Hannis T. Bourgeois focused on whether Central High School was exercising proper procedures in seven areas: student activity funds, segregation of money-handling financial duties, segregation of other financial duties, transfers between student activity funds, petty cash, managing bank accounts and fixed assets.

The auditors found that too often the school’s executive secretary alone was handling duties that should be divided among multiple people.

They also found, among other things, that too often supporting documentation for transactions was missing, many purchases were paid months later than they should have been and several checks signed more than a year before were still outstanding.

Faulk said the problems were similar to those that auditors had previously found in the central office, but noted that the money in question was, with a couple of small exceptions, accounted for.

He said the audit was a good exercise and that the school is in the process of making the recommended changes.

“There wasn’t something Earth-shattering that came out of it,” he said.

Faulk also said the system’s finance office is developing a new financial procedures manual, using best practices from around the state, and that all staff who handle money will undergo training in the summer.