NYS Comptroller Releases City of North Tonawanda School District Audit
Update: 11 September 2008 9:13 pm EST
In a Press Release dated 10 September 2008, New York State Comptroller DiNapoli's office announces the release of City Of North Tonawanda School District "Internal Controls Over Selected Financial Operations" audit for the period July 1, 2006-February 20, 2008.
Internal controls equals accountability. It is the responsibility of the Board of Education to have an Audit Committee to establish policies that ensure sound fiscal policy, and it is a requirement of law that every school district have a yearly audit by an independent certified public accountant. The most common issues found in school district audits are: inappropriate payment to school officials, deficiencies in district's internal auditing service to ensure that claims made are appropriate, security of information technology, and unauthorized vendor payments.
Issues critical to government and the public trust include fraud, internal control mismanagement, misconduct, and compliance with budgets.
The New York State Comptroller is responsible for ensuring that school districts manage and spend its tax dollars properly. Audits typically begin with an initial assessment of district-wide finances, including financial oversight, capital improvement projects, cash receipts and disbursements, purchasing, electronic funds transfers, technology, and payroll and personal services. Evidently, and assuming the Comptroller's office initial assessment of the internal controls of the City of North Tonawanda School District included at least the foregoing, the Comptroller's audit was narrowed to two selected financial operations -- vendor cash disbursements/receipts and security of information technology (server ERIE 1 BOCES), for the reason that these areas were considered most at risk by the Comptroller's office audit. Consequently, "Inadequate financial controls at the North Tonawanda City School District caused the district not to detect $15,000 in discrepancies with its food service vendor and to overpay vendors an estimated $1,450 over five months,"...and controls over the District's computers needed improvement which put the District at risk for having "data inappropriately modified, misused, or lost."
Read the Press Release and Comptroller's recommendations here: http://www.osc.state.ny.us/press/releases/sept08/091008a.htm A link to City of North Tonawanda School District Audit is embedded in the Press Release.
End of Update
New York State Comptroller DiNapoli's office fails to release an Internal Controls Over Financial Operations audit for the City of North Tonawanda School District, North Tonawanda, NY.
On January 11, 2008, a Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) request was directed to the Records Access Officer for the Office of the New York State Comptroller requesting agency records to include audit and audit results, reports, recommendations and correspondences related to City of North Tonawanda School District, located at 405 Meadow Drive, North Tonawanda, NY. The request was limited to records produced on or after September 1, 2007. The request was amended on January 16, 2008, at the request of NYS Comptroller Records Access Officer Shelly Brown, for the reason that it would facilitate processing of the request, and now limited to audits produced on or after January 1, 2007.
Ms. Brown acknowledged receipt of the amended FOIL request stating that "Personnel from the Division of Local Government and School Accountability have informed me that the audit...has not been completed yet. VVe [sic] will notify you when the audit is released."
A request for an approximate date for completion of the audit was unsatisfactory in that DiNapoli's office failed to provide an approximate date for its determination, release of the audit, or both. DiNapoli's Office replies, "We are looking into this for you. Thank you for your patience." Consequently, an Advisory Opinion was sought from New York State Committee on Open Government to determine whether or not DiNapoli's office complied with Freedom of Information Laws (FOIL).
In correspondence received July 25, 2008, the staff of the Committee on Open Government through Assistant Director Camille S. Jobin-Davis states in part:
"If circumstances prevent disclosure to the person requesting the record or records within twenty business days from the date of the acknowledgment of the receipt of the request, the agency shall state, in writing, both the reason for the inability to grant the request within twenty business days and a date certain within a reasonable period, depending on the circumstances, when the request will be granted in whole or in part."
Ms. Jobin-Davis' correspondence also states, "...although you indicated that your search was unsuccessful, our search of the Comptroller's website revealed an executive summary and a 23 page audit of the City of North Tonawanda School District. We have enclosed a paper copy of these documents for your records."
The executive summary and 23 page audit was not an audit for the City of North Tonawanda School District but, in fact, an Office of the New York State Comptroller Division of Local Government & School Accountability audit of School Internal Controls Over Financial Operations for [Erie County] Tonawanda City School District.
In response to a subsequent telephone call to Ms. Jobin-Davis and follow-up correspondence related to this over-sight, Ms. Jobin-Davis replies in correspondence dated August 13, 2008, "...this will confirm that I sent you a copy of an audit report in error. Please excuse the oversight and note that this does not change the substance of the advisory opinion issued."
A recent search of the Comptroller's website, here: http://www.osc.state.ny.us/localgov/audits/schools/index.htm reveals that for the years 2003 to present no audits are available for the City of North Tonawanda School District.
See related stories here: http://www.nowpublic.com/tag/North+Tonawanda
DiNapoli's Office initiates North Tonawanda City School District in October 2007: http://www.osc.state.ny.us/press/releases/nov07/110807.htm