Procurement Assessment Indicates Fraud at DeKalb Schools

DeKalb Schools recently completed a cursory assessment of its procurement process. It indicated that ethics and integrity in the procurement process is practically non existent. For over two months, the school district withheld this report from the public. Finally, the district made a course correction and released the report. Here’s the link so you can read it for yourself.

  Procurement Assessment Report FINAL

Call To Action

Based on this initial review of the district’s procurement processes (or lack thereof), I’m calling for the creation of the following positions:
* Independent ethics officer
* Independent internal auditor

I am also calling for a review of all current contracts and an in-depth fraud investigation by an outside expert.

Richard Belcher with WSB has been looking into DeKalb School’s procurement for months. He posted DeKalb Schools employees accept travel, meals from companies on Monday where he enlisted the aid of a previous federal agent and fraud examiner to assess DeKalb Schools’ procurement assessment.

The federal agent is positive there is fraud at DeKalb Schools citing the procurement assessment that revealed vendors are paying school employees. The procurement assessment says, “it is widely known that certain types of vendors host conferences and fairs, and often will pay for District employees to attend those conferences or pay staff to be involved in those conferences and trade events.”

The federal agent recommended the following questions be asked of vendors currently doing business with the district:
Does the company do any work with school employees?
Does the company do a vast majority of its work with DeKalb alone?
He also recommended to spot check various vendors and drive to the physical location of the vendor’s office.

Response From Superintendent Green
Superintendent Stephen Green

Dr. Stephen Green
Superintendent, DeKalb County School District

The DeKalb County Board of Education had requested Nelson Mullins conduct a high level assessment of the District’s procurement processes. This was the first step in a continuous process that evaluates how the district can become more effective and efficient in its practices. The report is not the end, but the beginning. The report gives the district the opportunity to do an introspective view of its board policies, protocols and procedures, before major problems arise. Now that the report is complete, we are in the beginning stages of developing an action plan that will strengthen our current procurement processes. The administration will provide the Board of Education with periodic updates on the progress of improvement of our procurement practice.

18 responses to “Procurement Assessment Indicates Fraud at DeKalb Schools

  1. “ The administration will provide the Board of Education with periodic updates on the progress of improvement of our procurement practice.” … Well now there’s a load of bureaucratic BS. No surprise here. The district has been corrupt for decades.

  2. The current system allows for corrupt practices, not sure if those occurred or not.

    Modern day contracting software allows for posting of all transactions to a web site or report that can be made available to the public.

    Also, in our organization we dropped the discretionary limit to $25, so any purchase above $25 went thru a series of approvals and checks. This resolved a lot of issues.

    Its not difficult to fix but there needs to the will and leadership to do it.

    You will never stop back-handers and free meals/drinks etc but they can clean this up pretty quick if they wish to.

  3. Hey Stan –
    AJC in an article this morning says DeKalb is going to spend “$105,458 to fund two contract compliance officers as recommended in a recent audit of the county’s purchasing and procurement practices.” So they are already saying they are paying for two people to oversee the process. Is this the same two people that you are suggesting in your “Call to Action”?

  4. Hello @Bob. My keyword is “independent”. We need people that don’t work for or answer to the board or school district. Historically what the school district does is create a group or entity to make it look like there is oversight. But, it’s really just another layer of the school district providing cover for and defending the illegal and unethical stuff going on.

    The   Procurement Assessment Report doesn’t say anything about hiring a “Contract Compliance Officer”. When we met this weekend to discuss this report, the only next steps the district put forth were
    * Update policies
    * More training

  5. escapee from Dekalb

    And I am betting there are already “friends and family” lining up for the positions..

  6. @Bob, Ahhhh … OK …
    If you’ll recall back in 2015, DeKalb County (watershed, sewage, zoning, police, etc…) hired corruption investigators. Their report said, “The DeKalb County government we have found is rotten to the core.” Their report recommended $105,458 to fund two contract compliance officers as recommended in an audit of the county’s purchasing and procurement practices.

    Hiring fraud/corruption investigators is one my calls to action for the school district.

  7. (Don’t think this position was ever refilled – Babst was too wise for them – convenient that his was one of the items shrunk in the budget, right?)

    Superintendent’s 2015 contract provides him $2600 a month for any expenses incurred without a requirement to provide receipts: Does his current contract provide a similar clause??

    The BOE also changed the policy a few years ago to provide for the superintendent to make purchases/hires up to $99,999 without BOE approval. Previously it was set at $49,999. The BOE could change that policy with 30 days notice to any lower number they chose. What will stop them?

    Laptop Boy is totally right. It requires the will and leadership of the BOE but steps could easily be put in place to reign this mess in. Sad that it was the BOE that requested the procurement audit. Shouldn’t Dr. Green have been on top of his team and investigating – isn’t that what he is paid to do? The BOE supervises him but he has total autonomy to manage his staff.

  8. Sadly, the BOE has given Dr. Green a lot of decision making power without asking or informing them. As Stan has pointed out on previous occasions, he only gets one vote and often votes alone on issues that require ethical issues. By the way, what does the State BOE think about all the ongoing post-probation status shenanigans?

  9. Thirty Years Dedicated

    Does any of the top-heavy, female, administrative staff under Dr. Green ever leave the office and visit schools? Every time I call they’re eating on the phone and getting ready to leave the office just in time for their children to get out of school , but I have never been able to been able to verify their presence in a building except early in the mornings…definately not when teaching and learning is taking place. As a matter of fact, how many men actually stand up to this guy over their daily buffets?

  10. Hello @Cathy. The state considers itself advisory. They are big on local control. They don’t have an answer for when local control is tyranny of the majority.

  11. Does this explain Verge?

    Perhaps this explains why the county insists on paying half a million dollars a year for Verge software instead of allowing teachers to use the vastly superior and FREE Google Classroom. Did the Verge sales rep have a relative at DCSD?

  12. Mr Jester,

    How often are the school funds and equipment audited? Are the results of these audits made public?

  13. Hey @Joy
    School Funds – There are all kinds of school funds. Private 401c(3) funds are never audited by the school district since they are private. I doubt funds collected by school individuals like teachers from parents for random class stuff are ever audited. School funds provided by taxes given to the schools by the central office are tracked, but are rarely audited.

    Equipment Audits – Coaches do inventory, but I doubt it goes any further than that.

    Public Audits – You can directly ask individuals collecting money for an itemized list of how their funds are spent. Let me know if you don’t get a response.

  14. FormerDekalbTeacher

    @Does this explain Verge?

    Your question if there were DCSD/Verge connections is a valid one.
    Verge was a mess when I was in DCSD. I’m in a new district now and they make great use of Google Classroom/Drives. I am in love with Google Classroom- so easy to provide feedback to students and keep evidence of student work all in one place.

  15. Stan,
    Why are there 75% of Bookkeepers resigning this year or is that fake news? If this is true, what happened and why?

  16. Stan Jester

    Do you have a link to the story?

  17. Stan
    I do not have a link to this hard to believe info about the Bookkeepers, but I saw it on FaceBook from someone linked to my page.

  18. last spring, a central office employee met with all the bookkeepers – bragged about his expensive shoes/clothes; told all the bookkeepers the district was going to hire better bookkeepers going forward – pretty big put down if you are a decent bookkeeper and hear that from your superior. Apparently the new “better” bookkeepers included one hired in August for Livsey who allegedly didn’t last long due to money issues. Find some former Lakeside parents from years ago and ask about their bookkeepers – 1 was fired, charged and years later still not tried; 1 was caught and fired but never charged. DCSD has some great, honest ones who are not appreciated by DCSD. DCSD has some loosey goosey school accounts and principal discretionary accounts and no yearly auditing….and has some that need to be fired, charged and tried. At a minimum, audits should be done every year and every time a school gets a new bookkeeper.