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February 21, 2008


DiNapoli: Family Life Academy Implements Stronger
Internal Controls as a Result of Audit

Inappropriate Websites Accessed on School Computers
School’s Own Policies Not Followed

School officials at Family Life Academy Charter School improved internal controls over Internet usage, background checks and financial procedures after deficiencies in these areas were uncovered by an audit released today by State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli.

“The purpose of school audits is to offer recommendations to schools on how they can improve their practices to protect school property and taxpayer dollars,” DiNapoli said. “Family Life Academy viewed my office’s audit as a learning opportunity and took substantive action to address concerns raised in the audit. The result is a more secure environment for students, employees and the school’s assets.”

The audit found that inappropriate websites had been accessed on three school computers. Auditors determined sexually related websites were viewed on a school administrator’s computer, a computer in the students’ computer lab and a computer in the teachers’ lounge. These inappropriate websites were accessible because the school’s web-filtering software was not installed with proper controls and was inactivated for a period of time. In addition, school employees shared passwords, did not sign off the computer network regularly or shut down computers at the end of the day.

The audit discovered two security guards employed by the school building’s landlord did not have required background checks and fingerprinting. Students pass the security desk each time they leave or enter the building. State law requires a criminal background check for potential employees that will come in direct contact with students.

Auditors also found internal controls to ensure proper use of taxpayer dollars were not operating effectively. The school did not competitively bid six contracts or obtain proper approval for eight contracts totaling $128,063 as the school’s procurement policy requires. In addition, the school failed to establish proper checks and balances in procurement and payroll duties and instead assigned all of this work to the operations manager without having anyone else review the work. Delegating all of these duties to one person makes the school more susceptible to errors or abuse.

The audit also found the school did not follow its own established policies by failing to maintain proper documentation for purchases and not getting pre-approval for employee overtime.

The audit recommends that school officials:

  • evaluate the effectiveness of web filtering software and actively monitor internet usage;
  • verify all building security guards are fingerprinted; and
  • comply with established policies and procedures for procurement and cash disbursements.

The school generally agreed with the audit’s findings and agreed to implement corrective action, including:

  • implementing changes for Internet use and improving controls over passwords;
  • working out an agreement with the school’s landlord to have all building employees that come into contact with students fingerprinted;
  • reorganizing the procurement and payroll functions to better separate duties; and
  • preparing and maintaining proper documentation for payments.

The school’s full response is in 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 365 school audits and approximately 200 school audits are currently underway.

Click here for a copy of the audit.

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