Auditor: RSD cannot locate millions of dollars in equipment - FOX 8 WVUE New Orleans News, Weather, Sports

Legislative auditor says RSD cannot locate millions of dollars in equipment

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New Orleans, La. — Louisiana's legislative auditor says the local Recovery School District cannot locate millions of dollars in computers and other school equipment.

"If anybody ran a business like this and we had $3 million that are actually missing, we'd have some very grave concerns about it," said Rep. Wesley Bishop (D-New Orleans), a member of the House Education Committee.

The findings released by Legislative Auditor Daryl Purpera Monday are disturbing to many.

"What we found was that about 1633 items were not located in the place that they said they were to be located and that accounts for about $2.7 million," he said.

That covers a four-year period. And the report said the 2012 annual certification of property inventory also identified 908 items costing $1.4 million as "unlocated" for the current period.

Purpera said this is the sixth consecutive year that the RSD did not make sure that movable property was safeguarded against loss, including loss from unauthorized use and misappropriation.

"Without accurate records we really don't know whether or not those items are truly at the RSD, have they been misplaced, have they been stolen... you know, we really don't know," he said.

The current RSD superintendent in New Orleans, Patrick Dobard, took the helm in January 2012 after then-Superintendent John White moved up to statewide education superintendent.

Dobard issued the following statement to FOX 8 News:

As New Orleans moves towards a decentralized system of schools, the RSD has learned that managing property across more than 50 independent charter schools poses challenges in organizing and reconciling inventory. Nearly three-fourths of the property reported missing is actually currently serving the educational needs of our students, but is deemed unlocated due to incorrect location codes. In the short term, the RSD is improving its inventory processes and will be increasing property management training for our schools to ensure everyone is on the same page on how to properly handle, move and dispose [of] removable property. In the long term, we will be working with the auditors to look at how audits designed for centralized systems can be adapted for our new decentralized system of schools.

"I know Mr. Dobard to be an honorable guy, and I think that he is working hard to do this," Purpera continued.

And the legislative auditor thinks RSD should make custodians more responsible for movable property assigned to them. One section of the reports reads:

Management should continue to improve controls over movable property by increasing its efforts to make the custodians responsible and accountable for assigned RSD movable property to include holding the custodians financial liable as allowed by the movable property regulations.

During his interview with FOX 8 News, Purpera said, "I think it's up to them, the RSD and the custodians to do the best job they can at locating the property and to fix their system that, if property's moved from one room to the next during the year, then the records ought to appropriately reflect that... I don't know if legally we can hold the custodian liable for those amounts, but certainly I'm sure it's reflective within their job."

Representative Bishop said the cycle of lost equipment must come to an end.  "I think whether or not it's an accountability system, a better tracking system or just calling a spade a spade, somebody stole it, you know, let's see exactly what's going on," said Bishop.

The audit also found that during fiscal year 2012, the RSD failed to ensure that the dates employees left the system's employ were accurate.  "And what we have to do is properly get that information to the payroll office, so that that individual will not be paid for days beyond that termination date," the auditor said.

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