Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Whitman's Black and White notes Audit Black Eye

While Richard Montgomery High School in Rockville is recovering from its broken pipes, members of the Whitman community in Bethesda are alerted to spending discrepancies in the school's Indepedent Activity Fund.

Is this really a matter of minor errors or too many contracts and too little time?  Are parents to blame?  Honestly, Whitman, I hope you take better care of business, especially when your school serves the families of two current Board of Education members.  

This writer hates to think that these sloppy practices happen in other areas of the school administration - like college admissions.  Now that is something that would get some attention, even in Bethesda.

Audit reveals spending mishaps

by Alex Zimmermann   Published on Oct.20, 2009   No Comments
Recent MCPS budget audits revealed several minor spending mishaps at Whitman, including a $16,750 athletic field maintenance contract that wasn’t approved in advance by MCPS administrators.

Chief operating officer Larry Bowers must approve all school spending projects over $6,500, MCPS spokesperson Chris Cram said. Although the school spends money on various projects throughout the year, this was likely a minor error that failed to go through every required process.

“We have lots of contracts that have to be approved,” principal Alan Goodwin said. “We’ve had the same contract with the ground maintenance crew for a long time, so it must have just been a timing issue. Some contracts are worked out through parent groups, so it could have been one of those.”

In addition to the account switch, the athletic field maintenance contract wasn’t approved in advance of the formation of a year-to-year contract.

“As a new athletic director, I found out after the fact that we had to submit it to [the office of the deputy superintendent],” athletic director Andrew Wetzel said. “We then submitted it to his office and it was approved. We didn’t write any checks until it was.”

The contract existed prior to Wetzel’s appointment to athletic director. However, Wetzel did not realize that contracts must be re-approved in advance every year.

The audit also revealed that Whitman’s checking account was overdrawn four times because of delays in recording account info, according to the Gazette. However, Goodwin said that the bank account was never low.

“There was no bank imbalance, per se,” he said. “The summer before last we were switching banks, so there was a time lag.”

The MCPS Accountability Office regularly conducts audits of county schools to ensure all spending practices are in accordance with regulations. The most recent audit at Whitman was published this spring.

 “These audits are done and shared with the schools to remind them that there are processes and procedures to be followed,” Cram said. “It’s good to have an audit to make sure everything goes by the book.”

The Accountability Office sends auditors to schools to check all the accounting books and to meet with the principal and business manager. After the audit is complete, they submit a report to MCPS and the school advising certain changes. Administrators hope to fix all the problems, but that’s not always possible.

“What was frustrating was that a couple of the things were in previous audits as well, especially related to field trips and that kind of thing,” Goodwin said. “Once again, it’s just making sure that we are smoothing out our processes.”

Although the audit revealed certain minor issues that the school needs to fix, no business practices are more serious than a routinely missed form or a small mishandled sum of money.

“The audit just revealed some sloppy business practices like making sure that all ticket sales are more carefully scrutinized and that teachers turn in the proper forms for field trips and for fundraisers,” Goodwin said. “Nothing illegal was found. It was just to make sure we are following all the procedures more closely.”

No comments:

Post a Comment

If your comment does not appear in 24 hours, please send your comment directly to our e-mail address:
parentscoalitionmc AT outlook.com