Pennsylvania’s Auditor General Asks School District to Prove Progress in IT Department

The Scranton School District has come under fire for weak controls of its IT inventory, and for poor records that have increased the risk for “loss, theft and misuse.”

by Sarah Hofius Hall, The Times-Tribune / January 10, 2019
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(TNS) — Pennsylvania’s auditor general, a frequent critic of the Scranton School District, wants leaders to prove they have made improvements to the district’s information technology department.

The request is in response to three minority school directors contacting Auditor General Eugene DePasquale last week, asking him to audit the IT department.

Seeking assistance as citizens and not as school directors, Katie Gilmartin, Mark McAndrew and Tom Schuster said they felt frustrated after the board voted 4-3 last month to table an official request from the board for the auditor general to step in and review the department.

In October 2017, DePasquale released a scathing audit of the district, criticizing its leadership and operations, including the deficit and costs associated with the no-bid busing contract. The audit also concluded that the district had weak controls of its IT inventory, with poor records increasing the risk for “loss, theft and misuse.”

As part of its response, the district vowed to conduct its own audit. Administrators previously said they have been unable to complete one because of a staffing shortage. Last month, the board approved paying the Northeastern Educational Intermediate Unit $2,500 a month to assist with information technology services, including conducting the internal audit. Minority members previously said both the internal audit and state inquiry could happen simultaneously.

In a letter sent to the superintendent and board president this week, DePasquale asked for a report on how the district has adopted the recommendations made in the 2017 audit.

“It’s been 15 months since my audit report, and local taxpayers deserve to know whether the school district has done anything to resolve this problem,” DePasquale said in a news release. “From all appearances, the district doesn’t seem to think it should be held accountable for its use of taxpayer resources.”

In this week’s letter to district officials, DePasquale requested detailed responses to seven questions regarding current IT inventory policies and procedures. Questions include whether the district has developed policies governing purchasing, maintenance and disposal of inventory, and whether the district has a master list of all equipment by serial number.

Superintendent Alexis Kirijan, Ed.D., said she is eager to respond and appreciates the correspondence with the auditor general.

“We’re paying close attention to all the work that needs done in the district,” she said. “We’re moving forward... we’re excited about the work. We’re excited about making improvements to the district.”

Working with the NEIU, the district already started some aspects of the internal audit and also has updated its IT policies in recent years, she said.

Gilmartin called DePasquale’s response “appropriate” and said she would like the auditor general to assess the district’s progress in all aspects on the 2017 audit.

“I’m very glad he heard our concerns and responded so quickly,” Gilmartin said.

©2019 The Times-Tribune (Scranton, Pa.). Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.