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August 22, 2008

DiNapoli: The Union Free School District of the Tarrytowns
Failed to Get Bids for Nearly $436,000
in Purchases and Contracts for Public Work

District Also Didn’t Seek Competition
for More than $800,000 on Professional Services

Contrary to state law, the Union Free School District of the Tarrytowns did not request bids for 11 purchases and public work contracts totaling $435,820. Additionally, the district did not seek the competition before hiring nine professional service providers at a cost of $811,793, according to an audit released by State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli. Further, contrary to district requirements governing purchases or public work contracts not subject to competitive bidding requirements, the district did not obtain quotes to help ensure they received the best price for 10 purchases totaling $88,697. The audit covered the period July 2006 to November 2007.

“There’s a reason why we have laws, rules and regulations on school district spending,” said DiNapoli. “Districts have to get the most for every tax dollar they spend. If school officials fail to follow the guidelines for spending, they not only fail the taxpayer, but they undermine the public’s confidence and jeopardize tax dollars.”

DiNapoli’s audit also found the following:

  • claims auditing was inadequate because district officials failed to provide the claims auditor with a job description or clearly communicate their expectations of him;
  • the treasurer, who is also the payroll clerk, performed most payroll and cash management functions with insufficient oversight. Although auditors did not identify improprieties, the concentration of key functions with one individual with insufficient oversight significantly increases the risk that errors or irregularities could occur and not be detected and addressed in a timely manner;
  • of 111 recently purchased laptops, the district could not account for four. Although the business manager subsequently located one laptop, the remaining three were still missing by the conclusion of the on-site audit work;
  • auditors were unable to determine whether computer data changes were authorized or not because the district’s financial software could not generate audit logs, and several district employees had access rights to financial software that exceeded the requirements of their job duties; and
  • the district had not established a formal disaster recovery plan in case of data loss.

DiNapoli recommended that district officials:

  • comply with the district’s adopted purchasing policy and General Municipal Law by publicly advertising for bids of purchase and public works contracts that are subject to competitive bidding requirements;
  • revise the district’s procurement policy to include the procurement of professional services, and award professional service contracts only after soliciting competitive proposals;
  • obtain quotations prior to selecting vendors for purchases and public work contracts that fall below the bidding thresholds;
  • develop written procedures and guidelines for the examination and approval of claims and clearly communicate their expectations of the claims auditor, and monitor the claims auditor’s activities to ensure compliance or provide guidance;
  • in turn, the claims auditor should report directly to the Board with any questions or concerns pertaining to claims, and periodically prepare comprehensive written reports to the Board;
  • properly segregate the duties of payroll from cash disbursement, and ensure that someone independent of the cash-management process perform complete and accurate monthly bank reconciliations;
  • locate the three missing laptop computers and develop new procedures to protect computer equipment from loss;
  • password protect, monitor and track data changes in the financial management system, assign computer system access rights to match district employees’ respective job functions, and develop a formal data disaster recovery plan.

District officials generally agreed with DiNapoli’s recommendations and indicated they would take corrective action.

School District Accountability:
In order to improve accountability of the state’s schools, DiNapoli’s office will audit all of New York’s 834 school districts, Board of Cooperative Educational Services (BOCES) and charter schools by 2010. The State Comptroller’s office has completed 470 school audits and approximately 200 school audits are currently underway.

Click here for a copy of the Union Free School District audit.


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