Audits of 20 school districts across New York state found many could not always locate information technology (IT) assets such as laptop computers, tablets and monitors; did not always keep records of those assets; and often failed to safeguard them from theft or damage. As a result, nearly $22 million worth of IT assets purchased or leased during the audit period were subject to potential theft, loss or misuse, according to a report released today by State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli.
“The COVID-19 pandemic forced school districts to quickly adapt to a new environment, using technology to move to remote and hybrid learning,” DiNapoli said. “This required spending significant money on IT assets. District officials need to ensure these devices are tracked and protected so taxpayers know their money isn’t being squandered.”
For the audit period of July 1, 2019 to March 31, 2022, auditors selected 1,155 IT assets to confirm they were inventoried in school districts’ records and selected 945 of these to see if they could be located. More than 20% of the assets, worth nearly $280,000, were not properly accounted for. Although three districts — East Quogue Union Free School District, Elmsford Union Free School District and Phoenix Central School District — were able to locate all equipment, 17 could not locate over 100 assets worth approximately $32,700, including 81 Chromebooks worth $18,400. Auditors found 15% of the sampled assets were not included in the districts’ inventories.
From the inventory records examined at the 20 districts, auditors reviewed 95,750 asset entries and found nearly 4,400 had missing or duplicated serial numbers and approximately 4,800 were missing locations or the names of assigned employees, making them difficult, if not impossible, to locate.
Eight districts did not have adequate protections to keep equipment from being lost or damaged. Auditors found computers and other items stored in unlocked rooms, hallways or in areas at risk of, or showing, water damage.
The districts’ IT department staff generally told auditors they did not have time to conduct physical inventories because their workloads increased during the pandemic. However, auditors noted districts made significant investments in IT assets during this period and the need to properly account for them also increased.
DiNapoli’s auditors also found:
- None of the 20 districts implemented procedures for properly tracking IT equipment inventory.
- Nineteen districts did not inventory all IT assets or conduct annual inventories.
- Thirteen districts did not have effective procedures to retrieve or recover student-assigned devices when a student left the district.
- Costs for nearly 75,400 IT assets and acquisition dates for approximately 62,000 IT assets were not noted in the inventory records districts maintained.
DiNapoli’s auditors made numerous recommendations to the districts and their boards, including:
- Ensure inventory records include the details necessary to adequately track and locate assets and that asset records, at a minimum, include: the make, model and serial number; the name of the individual to whom the device is assigned, if applicable; the physical location of the asset; and relevant purchase or lease information including the initial cost, depreciation and acquisition date.
- Perform a complete, annual physical inventory and compare the results to the inventory records. Update inventory records to track assets not included in district records.
- Develop a process to retrieve student devices when the student leaves the school.
- Ensure IT assets are properly accounted for, secure, and safe from environmental damage.
IT Asset Management
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