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October 10, 2008

 

DiNapoli: Vestal CSD Spent $15k on Questionable Purchases

Audit Finds Use of Pornographic Web Sites on District Laptops

Weak internal controls over several operations led to $15,305 in questionable spending and inappropriate use of computers at Vestal Central School District, according to an audit released today by State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli.

“Given today’s economic crisis, school districts need to watch every dime they’re spending,” DiNapoli said. “Taxpayers can’t afford the unwarranted purchases made by the Vestal school district. And taxpayer-purchased computers should not be used for personal use, especially not for viewing pornography.”

The audit, which covered July 2006 to November 2007, determined that the district improperly administered the employee benefits program that allowed employees to request and purchase equipment that did not appear to be necessary for their job duties. These purchases included:

  • $8,474 for three laptop computers for employees that had desktop computers;
  • $3,742 for three computers for the same employee;
  • $1,590 for three digital cameras for the same employee;
  • $999 for a 37-inch LCD television; and
  • a $500 radio.

At the time of the audit, the majority of this equipment, including the television, was not on district grounds. Six of the computers showed evidence of personal use, including adult Web sites and internet history details of pornographic images on two of the machines. Also, the district overpaid employees $1,412 under the employee benefits program. The district eliminated the program in June 2007.

Auditors also found the district improperly classified an attorney as a district employee and incorrectly reported him to the New York State and Local Retirement System. This resulted in undue costs for the district and taxpayers. The Retirement System rescinded this individual’s service credit from the district.

DiNapoli’s audit also found the district assigned its claims auditing function to an employee of the Broome-Tioga Board of Cooperative Educational Services even though the district paid BOCES $7.7 million for various services. This arrangement does not adhere to State Education Department regulations.

DiNapoli’s office recommends that district officials:

  • monitor employees’ compliance with computer use policies;
  • locate all employee benefits program purchases and recover any assets not on district property;
    strengthen controls over the employee classification process to help ensure individuals’ status is correctly determined;
  • recoup the overpayments made to employees; and
  • appoint a claims auditor in accordance with SED regulations.

District officials generally agreed with our recommendations and indicated they planned to take corrective action.

Click here to view the audit report.

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

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