Brad Freeman (Audit Supervisor) [00:02:16]
You have the results of the audit in a package. We are responsible for the financial audit of DeKalb Schools. In conjunction with that, we issued three letters: opinion letter, a yellow book letter and a single audit letter. We’ll briefly go over those, recommendations and other matters that came up.
This is the most important information you’ll receive related to the financial audit. This letter is the whole reason we’re out here, to give an opinion on your financial statements to state whether or not it’s fairly presented. For Fiscal Year 2011 we issued an unqualified opinion which is a clean opinion. Your financial statements for 2011 are fairly presented.
It’s required based on governmental auditing standards. We are required to look at your internal controls and compliance with certain laws and regulations. We don’t do enough work to give an opinion over your internal controls or compliance with laws and regulations. It’s more of a negative insurance. If anything comes to our attention, we will report that to you guys. For 2011 there were no significant deficiencies or material weaknesses in internal controls. Nor were there any material non compliances reported.
Single Audit Letter
We are required to issue this letter in conjunction with your A133, your federal compliance audit. We do give an opinion on whether or not the school district materially complied over certain federal programs. For 2011 we issued an unqualified opinion over your major federal programs. We also report any material weaknesses or material non compliances that come to our attention related to your federal programs. None were noted.
Starting on page 4 of the packet you guys have. There are required communications we have.
We want to bring up that management of the school board is responsible for setting accounting policies. All we do is audit them in conjunction with your financial statements. For 2011, you adopted Gasby 54. That’s related to certain definitions and fund balance and government fund type reporting. So, if you’re looking at 2010 financial statements compared to 2011 financial statements, some of the fund balance descriptions will be different if you’re comparing the two.
We want to bring up that your financial statements do include management estimates. It’s an integral part of financial statements. We test the estimates, but the actual results vary and that’s expected.
Financial Statement Disclosures
We audit your disclosures in conjunction with your financial statements. We found that they are clearly stated.
Difficulties in Accounting
There weren’t any difficulties for this audit. There were some uncorrected misstatements. They’re included in your packet. We concluded that they were immaterial to the audit as a whole. These were common misstatements.
Disagreements with Management
We are required to report any disagreements with management regarding accounting policies. For 2011 we had no disagreements.
We also discuss with management and those preparing the financial statements how certain accounting principles are applied and how they should be applied. We provide technical assistance as they prepare the financial statements. We are required to report that aspect.
We are independent as it related to generally accepted auditing standards.
Starting on Page 7 are other items we want to disclose.
TRA (Technology Risk Assurance) comes in and looks at your IT general controls. They communicated to management certain deficiencies in your general IT controls. That letter is confidential. We also noted that levels of access exceeded the job duties.
You had some concerns over accounting controls and the statement that jumps out at me is, “we noted the school district does not have adequate controls designed to protect financial information from manipulation, corruption or loss to ensure financial information is processed accurately.” Your recommendations were for specific security was sent to management in a letter. We got it in the mail and it’s in this packet, is that correct?
The audit results that contain their letters are on our website.
Did we have this concern before before 2011?
This is the first year TRA audited that. We have had segregation of duties issues before. Mr. Brantley has been working with us on these issues. We are confident that moving forward we won’t see as many of these issues. With internal controls, we just express what comes to our attention. We do not give an opinion on your internal controls, so there will be issues that come up that were not identified before. We look at your internal controls sufficiently to design our audit procedures. In doing so, we look at certain internal controls and not at others.
[Cunningham asking the same question again]
Were all accounting principles followed correctly?
Accounting principles and practices, yes. That is different than your internal controls. IT Accounting Controls for example, were bank reconciliations performed? Yes. That’s an internal control. Whether or not cash is properly accounted for is something we look at sustainably. That would be an accounting principle. An internal control would specifically be access.
I’m concerned about the vulnerability to fraud and loss and how long we have been vulnerable. One of the misunderstood things has been our auditing. We have been divided about the value of our auditing. I’ve been defending you like you were a god. Other folks tell me that it’s pretty much useless because you’re not looking for the things that could do us harm. I think you provide a beneficial service. I would like for us to understand the extend of that service.
When we’re talking about a clean audit, we’re engaged to perform a financial audit over your financial statements. That’s your financial report over your basic financial statements. What we are doing as a financial audit is saying those numbers are fairly stated, they’re accurate.
What we’re not doing is not saying that you had a clean bill of health. We’re not coming out here and saying that your internal control structure is good or not. These financial statement numbers are accurate. That’s all we’re coming out here to do.
In the processes of determining the accuracy of the numbers, certain internal control deficiencies may come to our attention.
About a year ago we could not have received a more glowing report. You said you don’t give an opinion, but you listed 10 potential problems with accounting controls this year. If our practices have not changed, then it’s safe to say they existed in the past.
We are in charge of oversight. We cannot do our jobs if we do not receive accurate information. The report last year led us astray. So, are you checking our addition and subtraction to make sure it’s right?
No. Flip to page 1, exhibit A. We’re looking at a financial statement audit. We follow two auditing standards. We followed the Generally Accepted Auditing Standards issued by the AICPA and governmental auditing standards issued by the US Governmental Accountability Office.
When we are looking at a financial statement, the standards require us to gain an understanding of the entity and its environment including its internal controls in order to plan and perform an audit. So we see the documentation, the weaknesses in internal controls, and those types of things. Standards require us to look at financial statement assertions. You, as management, make certain assertions to us as auditors. You assert this cash here is properly valued. You assert cash is recorded in the proper period, is properly classified, is presented and accurate.
When we’re designing our audit test, we test those things. Is your cash value reported properly. Is it reported in the proper period. Is it presented properly in the financial statement. Is it cash or vestments.
For accounts receivable, was that accounts receivable earned or not earned. Were the underlined obligations behind a payable, did they occur or not.
We’re not auditing the internal controls and not looking at them enough to give an opinion about them.
Do you audit the fund balance? What was the fund balance on June 30th, 2011?
The fund balance for the general fund was $53.8 million dollars.
So, we started off July 2012 budget with a $53 million dollar fund balance.
If there was an over expenditure, would you raise a flag to us?
We would research to see why.
The state should be bothered that audits can be so inconsistent.
It is managements responsibility to design internal controls and to evaluate internal controls. We recommend you have an audit committee. In the absence of that, you’re relying on divisions to monitor themselves.
Good advice, but that suggestion has never been made in the past.
We have been given this advice over a period of years.
Do you look at the starting point?
Yes. We audit the ledger and individual transactions in the general ledger to verify that is a good transaction. That it did occur and pertain to the entity, it was valued accurately, properly approved.
We start with a risk assessment which your finance department completes. It basically lists out all the financial statement risk associated with those financial statements. They will include the internal control in place to prevent that risk from occurring. We’ll start there. We’ll walk through and trace transactions in place for all significant processes.
We also ask management for areas of risk or concern.
Are you auditing to ensure that what is in an account is supposed to be in that account and not in another account. For example that Title I money isn’t dispersed into the general budget. You’re trying to verify GAP (General Accounting Procedures) that we are following generally accepted accounting practices.
We test for generally accepted principles, misstatements for auditing financial statements arise out of two reasons. You didn’t follow GAP or fraud, waste, abuse. When we are looking for fraud, we’re looking for material fraud, things that would impact a financial statement.
In the past, have you reported over expenditures of budget?
On page 9 of the results we had an annual budget of $774 million dollars, but yet we overspent that by $31 million dollars.
This page 9 is the budget report that is submitted to the board. Later on in this report we are going to talk about things we were specifically asked to do. Last year the board chair asked us to reconcile the difference between the fund balance reported to you guys and the fund balance reported in the financial report.
I’ll try to answer your question. What we did with these reports is traced all the numbers to your general ledger to verify that the information in these reports came from the general ledger. So that information reflected on page 9 is supported by the general ledger.
I do want you to reiterate that you looked very closely to see if there was monies that didn’t go where they were supposed to go. And if they didn’t you would report that. And that would be either misappropriation or fraud. You either document that the money did or did not go where it was supposed to. And, that would reveal fraud if it occurred.
Correct. We take a very conservative approach.
I’d like to pick up where Mr. Womack left off and hopefully this can offer some clarity. This is the first audit I have received as a board member. This is an audit prior to my service on the board. Subsequent to my service on the board, I’ve become aware of our under budgeting our fixed costs and pointed that out quite regularly at every board meeting. It has been going on since I’ve been on the board.
When you look back at this and you see a situation where we budgeted $10 million and we spent $16.5 million in electricity, that is a 55% overage. If you look at the sheer volume of expense items that are significantly over budget, then it’s a huge number. My point, and I’ll tie this into what Dr. Speaks was talking about, you’re not auditing the validity of our budget. Whether it was a well constructed budget. You’re auditing transactions. You’re auditing what happened, not what was presented as our plan, this is our budget.
Correct. The budget is basically board policy and we do not audit that.
Right. You’re not making a statement about whether it was good or bad.
Nor do we agree with it.
To clarify what Dr. Speaks was trying to get to, they’re not looking at the budget. They’re looking at transactions. For example, electricity. They’re looking at the ledger, did we get the bill, yes, did we pay that bill, yes, did it come out of the right bucket, check check check … we’re good. Right?
One of the things I’ve been concerned about is a control issue. Do we have the same chart of accounts as the state?
That is a big risk. Wouldn’t you agree?
And, you have been telling people that for years.
Has it ever been communicated directly to the board?
So, the board didn’t receive that type of control problem information. That went to management.
Correct. We evaluate control deficiencies and certain things rise to the level of a significant deficiency and certain things rise to a level of a material weakness. Those two things get reported in your financial statements. Other things do not.
We are more likely to report more things we notice with new management which was the case here.
It’s important for the board to recognize some of these operational deficiencies that were going, procedural deficiencies and so on … that were discussed with management but not the board. You have categorized them as not material, so you discussed them in conference.
Correct. We view those as more inconsequential.
You verify that it’s correctly stated. But you’re not making a statement about the budget or any of its characteristics or its validity. You would have made a statement that your chart of accounts is off, or it’s not congruent with the state’s. You would have made a statement that only one person walks the chart of accounts from one book to the other book and does not have any kind of check and that’s a manual procedure. So, that’s a risky thing, but that didn’t rise to the level of coming to the board with that. Right?
Because it’s my understanding that we had one person who would manually walk our chart of accounts to the state chart of accounts for reporting purposes. Everything is driven by definitions that are predetermined for you. Often times these definitions of what is significant or material might prevent you from coming further with it. To me this is very significant. I’ve long thought we had control issues there because we don’t have a do, check, and final review process that would be standard.
So, it would have been up to management to decide whether to bring any of those concerns to the board and talk about them.
All the IT controls was revealing. I didn’t see so much about the financial controls about not having a good checking system. To me, that manual system offered a lot of potential for problems.
Since it is a manual process, we do go in there and verify it. Any misstatements would have been reported.
I do recall a conversation about the accounts. You said it would be a process of about 2-3 years for us to get to the point where the charts are aligned with the state’s. This was before you got on the board. What happened is that we had other issues going on. I don’t think it was followed through to correct it.
This might have been 2 years ago. I left that meeting believing we were going to change a number of things. Nancy mentioned that management was notified of things the board was not. The board needs to be told these things.
That would be a good policy to create. We should decide what we think is material.
The board of regents does the same thing. They want everything brought to them. I also want to point out the magnitude of moving from the current chart of accounts to the state chart of accounts. It’s not a one year fix.
Going back to the budget, my concern is that a whole host of design flaws are embodied there such that it’s not even a weak suggestion of how to spend money. The budget has been plugged. That is not OK. I realize you all are not offering an opinion on that, correct?
So, that is not something that was investigated. All they are saying is that there were overages and the overages were calculated correctly. Previous administrations gave unrealistic numbers for line items they knew were not accurate. That enabled them to not cut in other areas that they needed to cut but was painful. Because when you cut your electricity budget, you’re still getting the bill and your going to pay the bill. You’re just going to go over. You’re not offering an opinion on that, correct?
That particular gaming of the budget by plugging the budget, plagued the system. Since you’re an expert in your field, can you describe for the board the difference between an audit of the financial statements and the assumptions you make for that versus a forensic audit which we do have ongoing with KPMG.
One difference is the cost. This audit is free.
Well, the taxpayers pay for both of them, so it’s not free.
In a nutshell, a forensic audit is scoped by something specifically you want to look for. There should be a reason you suspect something. It’s targeting in on that.
We are not doing that at all. We are doing a financial statement audit and verifying that the financial statement is accurate.
Can Mr. Brantley give us an update in the future on where we are with these access issues?
When he came on board, they were in the middle of that audit. I know we already have some solutions in progress.
OK. I just want to loop back around and make sure they are happening. We don’t want them to be dropped like the chart of accounts issue.
Before RTA people left the field, they require corrective action to be put in operation. They then review that corrective action and make a statement to us. If they put this corrective action in place it would alleviate the issues. That should give you an indication whether or not they were put in place.
Sarah Copelin Woods
It appears there have been a lot of private conversations with your office. One of the things continuously put out there is that there was fraud and theft by people. From what you have said, you have looked at this very carefully and did not find anything. Is that correct?
We did not find any material fraud.
What is the definition of TRA?
That is the Technology Risk and Assurancy division within the Georgia Department of Audits and Accounts. You have technology risk and assurance. There are not a lot of private conversations that go on behind the scenes with the board. There have been none as far as I know.
Give me the acronym for FOB.
FOB stands for Free On Board. It’s a shipping term that determines when the asset changes hands.
When you gather information, is that done independently?
We gather information from the original source documentation.
There are some statements lurking around here that there is something wrong with how things were done. You’re not saying that you can verify that due to your audit.
Correct. I’m just here to say the financial statements are materially correct.
I’m concerned with the allegations looming around here destroying people’s lives. Trying to characterize them as crooks. I look at the head of the school system. If there is something that needs to be done, it should have been from the top down. I have always had faith in this audit. That’s how I found out about the car incident.
I want to make it clear that when you were doing the audit, you didn’t find any fraud or impropriety of funds made by anybody in this audit.
Correct. If we had found fraud, we would have brought it to your attention. Your internal audit staff has found fraud in the past, so I’m not saying there is no fraud whatsoever. I’m saying we design our audit to detect material fraud and there was no material fraud or immaterial fraud that came to our attention based on our tests.
It appears there was some reference to try and implicate people. So, if there were not any that you found and I hold the state audit very high on my agenda because that’s the one the state does. It looks like there is a movement to create an impropriety that you haven’t found.
I am a CPA and I appreciate the work done and understand the difference between the various audits and the different opinions expressed. That said, I appreciate you bringing up these concerns.
Audits are based on samples. Somebody might bring something to you that might cause you to increase your samples. So, it is possible that you don’t find everything little thing.
With respect to a forensic versus a financial audit, not only is it the scope, or definition of the area to be investigated, but also the transactions are significantly larger than one you would find in a financial audit.
Did we look into access in previous audits?
We did look at access. I want to emphasize the two levels of expertise here. You have financial auditors looking at access and now you have IT professionals looking at it this year. In previous years, we got a dump of who initiated and approved POs. We looked at it to make sure the same person didn’t initiate and approve.
So we found the environment where something could happen but not that it did happen.
I would like you to go through the recommendations and related matters.
I want to make sure the board knows that the forensic audit is a short term solution. That is not going to fix any internal control issues long term. We gave Dr Atkinson and the finance committee and example of charters. What you should ask the forensic auditors. That a start. Then you’ve got to have internal auditors in there. The internal audit function isn’t to monitor internal controls. It’s to verify that those controls are in place. You have to have a functioning internal audit in place.
Close Out and Reconciliation Procedures
This is one of the items we have brought up in exit conferences in the past. Since there is new management, we wanted to bring it up again.
The current close out and reconciliation processes are very labor intensive. If you want to look for inefficiencies, look there. We would prefer you did a self evaluation of those procedures.
During conversations with HR and Finance, we have some challenges with the systems in that they don’t talk to each other. It’s antiquated technology. There’s a cost associated with correcting that. We’ll have to put the technology in place and then put the data in there and then the monitoring. Currently many of the HR reports are done manually. It’s very time consuming and error prone.
This cross point manual you’re talking about, it’s not used all across the board. Is that correct?
On the cross point accounts payable module? Cross point provides a module, but the process we were auditing is a manual process where they looked at the transactions and accounts payable. They, by a systematic process, zeroed down to the outstanding accounts payables and then provided us a listing by vendor and said here’s your outstanding accounts payable at year end. Cross Point has a module that would do this for you. HR is an example. This is a great time to evaluate the close out process. You have new management with fresh ideas. This is the time to do it.
Dr. Walker, you asked us to provide a reconciliation of between the ending fund balance reported to you guys and the audited. What you’ll see is there’s transactions, timing differences, from the time they run reports and present them to you and the time they present them to us, millions of dollars worth of transactions are occurring because they have all these manual processes. You’re not getting adequate information to make decisions in the first place. This stuff has to be corrected in order to move forward. Looking at your budget, this will address those types of issues.
You can’t develop a budget without accurate information. If your accounting system is not designed to provide you with timely accurate information, it’s not worth what you’re spending on it.
We want to make sure the board provides you with whatever capabilities you need to provide us with that information in a timely fashion. We don’t just expect it, we demand to have it. You can’t get it to us if we are short changing you. This is serious. Mr. Perrone. That must be executed.
Somebody keeps saying, “How much money”. We don’t know how much money.
We’ll let you know shortly.
Accounting systems are extremely expensive. It’s not a quick fix. Implementing a new system or a new chart of accounts, it takes a year of just planning and implementing. You may need to have dual systems going for a while. You don’t have the staff that can do this currently. You’ll need consultants to assist.
You mentioned a car purchase that looked suspicious in the past. Can you talk about how you found that so that everybody knows you are not a rubber stamp.?
I encourage you to pull 2005-2006 audit report and look at those findings. We reported that policies and procedures for construction contracts were not followed. Change orders were changing the scope of a project. We reported all of those types of things.
Ms. Suzanne Hatfield, Deputy Director
In the past we have always followed up on anything brought to our attention by the board, whistle blowers, etc … We got really lucky. We got a phone call and we looked into it and reported it. It was something we considered insignificant, but if it involves upper management, we are required by standards to report it. That type of insignificant report started the ball rolling on indictments with the district attorney’s office.
We had reported other discrepancies, like what he just talked about in the 2005-2006 regarding what was brought to the board to approve. They weren’t following state law or what is required by the Georgia Department of Education. The law is in OCGA regarding bidding processes. We look at those types of things closely.
Georgia Department of Education withheld millions of dollars because of those findings.
Talk about the car. How did we find out about that.
We got a call from somebody that said the Superintendent was purchasing a car. So, we looked into it. They said it was recently wrecked and they got it repaired and got new tires and the Superintendent is purchasing it. From that call we went in there and pulled transactions and interviewed people.
So, you pointed out some improprieties. The Superintendent isn’t supposed to purchase a car like that.
There isn’t anything wrong with the Superintendent purchasing a car necessarily. He just purchased it for significantly less than fair market value. Maybe $10,000 dollars under the fair market value.
Sarah Copelin Woods
It wasn’t approved by the board
If we see anything that is not approved by the board or properly approved by the board according to your policies and procedures, we will bring that to your attention.
Due to all the turnover related to this year, one of the individuals had to go back to their current role. We recommend that if somebody in a key financial role is terminated, just eliminate all their access.
Business Continuity Plan
We recommend you have a thorough business continuity plan in case you have a disaster at the central office. Could you make payroll, AP, etc …
School Activity Accounts
We noted a certain segregation of duties and inconsistencies with accounting procedures with your school activity accounts. These are your principal accounts at each of your schools. Your internal auditor reports also supported that there was a segregation of duties and accounting procedures that were not followed. We recommend you have somebody responsible for those areas.
Most agency funds are at the individual school level. There needs to be an agreement what those monies are to be used for. Who’s responsible for that money. What happens to the money when an event is over. We can provide examples upon request. It’s to protect from allegations of wrong doing.
State and Federal Deficit Grant Balances
We noted there was $4.9 million dollars in state grants that carried and maintained a deficit balance. This is where your Title I, Special Ed, Preschool, they are operating in a deficit. We recommend you monitor those balances and don’t run a deficit.
We didn’t know we could have a deficit in federal funds. Aren’t we supposed to pay that back? Tom just told me we spent more than we took in.
Your taxpayers are supplementing the federal program. This has been an issue we have brought up in previous years.
Dr. Atkinson, the board is saying not to spend more than you have on those programs.
There are issues with that. There are things that have been assigned and personnel have been assigned to those dollars. In order to correct that, we have to reduce it. I just want everybody to hear me say that. If you’re going to right size into the budget, you have to take the things out. We’ve been operating with a large number of personnel in our budgets because it’s a deficit and an economic down turn.
I haven’t looked at all of them specifically. We’ve worked hard for this coming year getting into budget.
This isn’t easy. There’s a lot of people involved. The important thing is to get competent people involved managing those projects. Many times instructional people are in charge of these grants and they aren’t properly trained in accounting procedures.
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