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Sloppy money handling plagues San Diego Unified

$7.6 million in student funds could be at risk of theft, district auditors say

San Diego Unified's poor money management practices don't seem to merit a slap on the wrist.
  • San Diego Unified's poor money management practices don't seem to merit a slap on the wrist.

No names are named, but there appears to be plenty of blame to go around in the mishandling of Associated Student Body money at two dozen campuses in the San Diego Unified School District, according to a June 30 report by district auditors.

A 24-school sample, divided equally between elementary, middle, and high schools, revealed serious problems with keeping track of cash, including recording of spending approvals, making on-time deposits, and keeping adequate financial records, the audit says.

According to the report, "deposits were not made on a timely basis, in 50 percent (12 of 24 schools) of the schools we sampled. Additionally, 25 percent (6 of 24) of our sampled schools did not maintain documentation to support the source of the deposits and receipts and/or the documentation did not contain the appropriate signatures."

The audit was conducted from the beginning of last July through December 2014, but some of the findings are nothing new, adds the report.

"The absence of documentation for cash receipts is an ongoing observation for the [student body] Funds."

In addition, the report continues, "the need for procedures to minimize the opportunity for an invoice to be paid multiple times" is not being adequately addressed.

The district has "established a practice of ‘cancelling an invoice’ or marking paid on the face of the invoice," the audit says.

But, "Our testing of samples of disbursement transactions at the selected schools found 53 percent (13 of 24 schools) did not routinely cancel [student body] Fund invoices," the audit reports.

"We identified 211 transactions where the invoice was not cancelled" after final approval of payment by the principal, according to the document.

"As a result, the risk of duplicate payments significantly increases."

On top of that, "Our testing found that in 5 of the 16 middle and high schools tested (31 percent), not all the disbursements included in our sample included evidence of approval of the disbursement by the student or [Associated Study Body] council," the auditors report.

"We identified 99 transactions that did not include the ASB or student council approvals. The risk of inappropriately disbursing student funds increases when the ASB or club minutes evidencing the approval are not included as part of the support for the disbursement."

As reported here by Dorian Hargrove in June 2010, the San Diego County Grand Jury has previously warned of abuse of student funds by local schools, citing unauthorized withdrawals at Hoover and Mission Bay high schools, and Longfellow elementary, among others.

In one case, money was used for a staff party.

Notes this year's audit, "We also found that in 42 percent of the schools sampled (10 of 24) not all of the disbursements were supported by invoices or the invoices used as support were not appropriate for the disbursement.’

Says the report, “Without the correct invoice included with the disbursement documentation, the school’s administration cannot reasonably assure that the correct invoice was paid and that student funds were appropriately expended."

The amount of associated student cash handled by the campuses is not insignificant.

"During our review period, the sampled schools received $1,668,827 in [Associated Student Body] receipts and disbursed $1,389,786," the audit says. "The ending cash balances for the sampled schools totaled $2,407,297." High schools accounted for about 85 percent of the money.

District-wide, the total student funds balance was $7,655,649 at the end of June 2014, according to the document.

Elementary schools covered by the audit were Angier, Balboa, Clay, Gage, Lafayette, Rolando Park, Silver Gate, and Spreckles.

Middle schools were Dana, Farb, Knox, Mann, Montgomery, Pacific Beach, Roosevelt, and Wangenheim.

The audited high schools were Clairemont, Crawford, Hoover, Madison, Mission Bay, Morse, Point Loma, and Scripps Ranch.

Among the high schools sampled, the associated students fund at Scripps Ranch had the highest checking account balance at $400,390. Madison was on the low end, with just $164,566.

"The individual schools provided us with a response and corrective action plan that addressed our observations and concerns," according to the report. "They generally concurred with the observations related to their individual schools."

The document added, "We provided a draft of this report to the Superintendent and the [chief financial officer] for review and comments. They did not provide us with formal comments on the report. However, the CFO did provide us with technical comments, which we incorporated into the body of the report as appropriate."

One bit of good news: "Our surprise cash counts at selected schools did not reveal any reportable conditions."

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Comments

We have been waiting for theft warrants, at least acknowledgemnt of corruption of everybody involved in South Bay pay for play, did not happe, ie Brand and Co.

ASB funds are a minefield of possible misuse -- innocent or otherwise -- and principals' heads have rolled when malfeasance is discovered. It seems odd to me that all schools don't have routinized required procedures for properly handling ASB money which, as is pointed out here, is not chump change.

This is just one of many facets of the operation of the "slobberin' school district" that are unacceptably weak. It is mind-boggling that one high school is sitting on a cash balance of over $400K of student money. That's more than the annual budget of some smaller schools. The overall picture is one of weak business practices, poor administrative skills, and an absence of management. But hey, what do you expect from these fools who now populate the administration ranks of the schools? Did anyone ever teach them office practices, or money handling, or paperwork controls, or much of anything useful? Heck, no. What they learned was about learning modalities (if they learned anything) and a bunch of touchy-feely sensitivities and a need to be inclusive. Management of the school? Don't make me laugh! There was a time when a school administrator was expected to be in control, but those days are past.

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