NEW ORLEANS — An audit report released Monday found that over the past four years, the Recovery School District was unable to account for $2.7 million in moveable property items.
The report also found problems with the accuracy and timeliness of the district’s ability to record employee separation dates, which without proper documentation has the potential to result in overpayments for terminated employees.
According to the Louisiana legislative auditor’s report, “For the sixth consecutive year, RSD did not ensure that movable property was safeguarded against loss, including loss from unauthorized use and misappropriation.”
Of the 1,633 items identified as missing, 1,380 were computers or computer-related equipment. In 2012 alone, 908 items with a value of close to $1.5 million was identified as unlocated.
In one incident, 26 laptops and 20 iPods worth about $17,000 were stolen from the storage room of a school directly run by the RSD. The auditors found that with individual schools being held responsible for conducting annual inventory for 2012, the district’s decentralization, lack of accountability and lack of training for property custodians contributed to the problem.
In a response letter to the audit, RSD Superintendent Patrick Dobard wrote that, “The $2.7 million noted in the finding is an extremely misleading number as a large percentage of the property noted as lost in fact is still in the schools serving the educational needs of the kids in the RSD’s system of schools. The RSD would estimate that 70 percent of the noted assets have incorrect location codes.”
Dobard’s response said that property has moved between schools, and that the issue was compounded as schools rebuilt after Hurricane Katrina, “when property control did not receive proper attention and mass quantities of property was purchased without proper protocols for data entry.”
Dobard wrote that corrective action, while “not an easy fix given the historical complexity,” will be taken through conducting inventories at each of 10 sites undergoing transformation, as well as at sites that the RSD believes may have a large amount of property marked as unlocated.
Dobard also wrote that the RSD would implement a new process to add accountability and for controlling the transfer of property.
Instead on relying on individual governing charter operators, known as local education authorities, to reconcile inventory, Dobard wrote that RSD employees will conduct as many as possible, “given the lack of incentive for accountability on the part of LEAs in property reporting.”
The audit also detailed 10 incidents at six schools in which the RSD reported about $74,000 in missing or stolen movable property. Of the 97 items reported, 70 were computers. In three of those incidents, totaling about $20,000 in property, there was no sign of forced entry. Of the total amount reported stolen, about 8 percent was listed as recovered.
Of the property reported stolen, Dobard wrote that, “many reasonable measures are taken to protect the assets in RSD buildings,” including 24-hour security guards and monitored security systems.
The report also concluded that the RSD was not recording employee separation dates in an accurate and timely way. According to the report, “This is the sixth consecutive year that we have cited RSD for inadequate controls over its payroll process.”
For the 2011-2012 school year, the auditors tested 14 employees. For all 14, the final separation dates were not entered prior to the close of employee’s last pay period, with the lateness ranging from seven to 107 days.
The RSD did not have supporting documentation to confirm the separation dates for eight of the 14 tested, according to the report, thus making it impossible to detect whether or not overpayments had been made.
In his response letter to the auditor, Dobard wrote that the RSD separated 762 employees during the last school year, and “acknowledges that every one of them should be processed timely and have proper documentation.”
Dobard wrote that the RSD has implemented a biweekly payroll review and has strengthened communication between the central office and school-based staff.
The RSD currently oversees 12 direct-run schools. More than half of the RSD’s direct-run schools will either close or be taken over by a new charter operator for the 2013-2014 school year. The RSD also currently oversees 56 charter schools under 27 autonomous governing boards.