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December 23, 2008

 

DiNapoli: Better Oversight By Rome City School District

Could Have Prevented Theft and Thousands of Dollars

in Unauthorized Purchases

With better controls in place, the Rome City School District could have prevented more than a quarter million dollars in unauthorized purchases and could have blocked schemes by two employees to purchase nearly $10,000 in yard and swimming pool maintenance equipment acquired for private use, according to an audit released by State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli. The two employees also submitted $3,672 in false invoices for machinery repair and sports equipment that actually paid for jackets and cell phones.

“School districts have to make sure they have strong financial controls,” DiNapoli said. “Employees shouldn’t be able to use taxpayer dollars to buy equipment for their private swimming pools. Taxpayers have enough concern about high taxes. They shouldn’t have to worry about school employees stealing tax dollars.”

The two employees have already been prosecuted for the thefts.

Auditors also found that:

  • $50,000 in purchases did not match item descriptions on the purchase orders;
  • more than $73,000 in purchase orders was issued after purchases were already made;
  • the district did not comply with bidding statutes for five contracts totaling $92,570;
  • the district did not follow its procurement policy for nine contracts totaling $77,957;
  • a contract for professional security consulting services totaling $11,250 was not approved by the board, 11 claims totaling $92,652 that were improperly paid prior to audit and there was no indication that the claims auditor approved six claims totaling $13,119;
  • a fuel claim for $85,890 contained no documentation that the fuel was actually received;
  • the district paid for 8,000 gallons of diesel fuel totaling $16,564 that it never received; and
  • the district could have saved approximately $4,785 by purchasing unleaded gasoline directly off state contract instead of trading diesel fuel for unleaded gasoline.

DiNapoli recommended that district officials:

  • ensure that employees follow the district’s procurement policy and regulation to be sure items purchased actually serve authorized district needs;
  • establish inventory records and reconcile them to inventories to detect potentially missing or stolen assets;
  • ensure that all items that exceed the bidding thresholds are competitively bid in accordance with purchasing statutes and the district’s procurement policy and regulation;
  • ensure that the claims auditor reports any problems directly to the board;
  • pay claims only after they have been properly audited and approved by the claims auditor;
  • enter into a written agreement with the fuel contractors that clearly define the rules over acquisition, delivery and usage of fuel that will allow the district to monitor fuel purchases and usage;
  • maintain accurate records showing fuel purchase cards assigned to each vehicle and employee and cancel any unused fuel cards; and
  • monitor fuel purchases and inventories to ensure that fuel purchases reasonably reflect actual fuel usage.

District officials agreed with most of DiNapoli’s recommendations and indicated they would take corrective action. Click here to view the audit.

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 530 school audits and approximately 200 school audits are currently underway.


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