But audit reveals no wrongdoing or losses

By Kevin E. Foley

In a recent audit the New York state Comptroller’s Office cited the Haldane Central School District for deficient procedures in making budget transfers during the course of the budget year.

The report also underscored a laxity in protecting data systems and protocols for access to financial data.

Under state law, Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli is responsible for making periodic examinations of the finances and management operations of local governmental entities, including school districts. Among other duties, the comptroller runs the state pension system on behalf of state and local government employees.

This particular audit report focused on budget transfers and information technology for the period July 1, 2014 through August 19, 2015.

The audit did not find any evidence of wrongdoing or inappropriate expenditures.

Budget transfers are needed throughout the school district’s fiscal year to account for variances between budgeted amounts and actual expenses across a wide range of items.

The comptroller’s auditors found that budget transfers were sometimes not acted upon or accounted for in an appropriate procedural manner. The report said there was no dollar threshold for budget transfer approvals.

In the fiscal year examined, the auditors found that approximately $1 million had moved among accounts within a $22.9 million budget. The report said formal approvals and accounting for these moves often lagged behind. The Haldane Board of Education did not formally adopt just over $500,000 of transfers until the 2014-15 fiscal year was over.

The report also observed that the school system’s server and other IT equipment where financial data is stored was not adequately protected from either human or environmental disruption, including power outages. The auditors found the door to the server room was not locked, although there is a locking mechanism.

District’s response

In a formal response to the Comptroller’s audit, included in the appendix of the report, Superintendent Diana Bowers did not dispute the findings but instead focused on how procedures and staffing moves were now in place to address the shortcomings.

“The district has already established a procedure with its accounting service to propose budget transfers to clear negatives on a monthly basis,” she wrote. “Careful consideration will ensure regular transfers will occur throughout the year, complete with approval and signature of the Superintendent with dates specified.”

Bowers also said IT is now under the control of staff more familiar with IT issues and they were working on comprehensive controls and security measures.

Asked by The Paper/Philipstown.info for comment, Haldane board chair Jen Daly echoed many of Bowers’ points. “After spending three months turning over every leaf, Haldane received glowing reviews from the state Comptroller’s office, with a few exceptions,” she wrote in an email response.

She also stressed: “The public should know that Haldane is run in an ethical and proper way and that this report will help us to work more efficiently … The business office, superintendent, and board of education are all committed to making the changes the state suggested.”

Behind The Story

Type: News

News: Based on facts, either observed and verified directly by the reporter, or reported and verified from knowledgeable sources.

Foley is the former managing editor of The Current and a partner in foleymyers communications in Northampton, Massachusetts.