Superintendent Don Coker and OPSB President Jerry Hicks

OUACHITA PARISH Schools Superintendent Don Coker, left, and Ouachita Parish School Board President Jerry Hicks, right, greet visitors after the School Board’s regular meeting Tuesday when it received a report of several findings in an audit of its operations. The findings ranged from late submission of an audit to state bid law violations.

Fund improprieties at West Ridge

resolved through restitution

Two sponsors responsible for collecting money on behalf of a Sterlington High School club did not deposit all the money into the high school’s fund bank account, a recent audit report shows.

The state Legislative Auditor and Fourth Judicial District Attorney’s offices were notified of the fund improprieties. The matter remains under investigation.

The improper use of school club funds represented one finding in a recent audit of the Ouachita Parish School Board for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2017. The audit report was the subject of discussion during the School Board’s regular meeting Tuesday.

The School Board recorded four findings in its audit report, including a finding for not documenting employee work attendance and absences as well as for violating state bid law in the authorization of bids and change orders.

“I know findings aren’t great,” said Amy Tynes with the Monroe certified public accounting firm, Allen, Green & Williamson. “That’s not what a School Board wants to hear. It’s a very good school system, in spite of the findings.”

Allen, Green & Williamson prepared the audit report delivered to the School Board Tuesday. The audit report was expected to be released publicly on Wednesday.

“With any audit, you’re going to take some licks, but the important thing is to have people in place who can remedy any flaws so that they do not continue when you get to the next year,” said School Board President Jerry Hicks.

“We’re in good shape, because we’re immediately addressing these items,” he added.

Club activities

raise concerns

The audit report detailed the improper collection and deposit of funds at the Sterlington High School club as well as at West Ridge Middle School.

The state Legislative Auditor’s March 2017 investigation found at least $22,000 may have been misappropriated by school employees in connection to school-sponsored student trips to Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida.

The two employees investigated in the West Ridge incident — Disney World trip sponsor and teacher Jodie Dean and bookkeeper Stacey Rogers — are no longer employed by the School Board, according to the audit report.

“The District Attorney obtained a restitution payment of $10,301 from the former bookkeeper,” stated the audit report. “A claim has been filed with the School Board’s insurance carrier for reimbursement of remaining losses.”

School Board policy requires all activity funds — such as those generated by a club, organization, association, class or athletic team — be deposited into the school fund bank account on the same day as collection.

“The incidents reported at West Ridge Middle School and Sterlington High School were the result of initial reports made by those school principals (West Ridge in April 2014 and Sterlington High in August 2017) to district administration of possible improprieties of school staff in handling cash,” stated the School Board’s response to audit finding.

The School Board discovered the Sterlington High club sponsors did not deposit receipts for several activities, including program sales, fees from students and parents, concession sales and other fundraisers.

The amount of money not deposited by the Sterlington High club sponsors ranged from $6,371 to $6,727 during the 2016-2017 fiscal year, the audit report stated. The practice continued into the 2017-2018 fiscal year when the amount of money not deposited ranged from $4,651 to $5,110, according to the audit report.

Only part of the Sterlington High club’s money was recovered during investigation, amounting to $3,246.

“The incident at Sterlington High School is currently under review by the law enforcement,” stated the audit report. “One sponsor has resigned and sponsorship and cash-handling activities have been removed from another employee. The School Board’s insurance carrier has been notified of this loss and claim filing is pending.”

State bid law violations

Another finding in the audit report pertained to state bid law violations, according to the audit report.

State law requires that any public works project equal to or exceeding $150,000 must be bid out.

Any change orders also must be within the scope of the initial contract, under state law.

Auditors tested nine bids/quotes for compliance with state law and found that one project had insufficient documentation. After further investigation, auditors found that a roofing repair project was split into two different projects and was not bid out. The project involved repairs to the roof at the Ouachita Parish Alternative Center.

Additionally, auditors found that one of seven contracts included a change order outside the scope of the original contract. The project involved drainage repair work at the West Monroe High School baseball field, adjacent to the high school’s football stadium.

“It was also noted that one contractor was paid in excess of the Board approved amount,” stated the audit report. “Although the contractor did refund the School Board the excess, it was not refunded until the auditor brought the overpayment to the School Board’s attention.”

The overpayment amounted to some $9,000. The School Board described the refund as having taken place “immediately” after being notified of the problem.

Improper documentation

of employee work

attendance

A review of 40 employees’ time records revealed that 16 employees did not have documentation showing their daily attendance such as timesheets or reports indicating when they arrived or when they left work. Though 24 employees had timesheets, 21 of them did not have approval from a supervisor.

Auditors recommended the School Board adopt a consistent procedure for documenting employees’ daily attendance.

“Our district has long since used the traditional procedure of pen and paper for employee sign-in/out arriving to and leaving from work at each work location,” stated management’s response in the audit report.

The school district pledged to record “accurate documentation” in the future.

School Board

financial health

Meanwhile, the audit report indicated the School Board enjoys a strong financial position after posting a general fund surplus of some $1.6 million.

Total revenues reached some $143 million while total expenditures amounted to some $140 million. After all transfers, the School Board recorded a surplus of some $1.6 million.

Juanita Duke, the school system’s business manager, said the School Board reduced expenditures during the fiscal year through attrition.

Some costs dropped because of a decrease in the school system’s mandated retirement contributions and the absence of any significant increases in health insurance costs, according to Duke.

“We worked hard to achieve this surplus,” Duke said.

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