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NYS Comptroller Audits Mount Vernon City School District and It’s Not Good

New York State inspectors from the New York State Comptroller's Office conducted an audit and found millions, yes millions of dollars in financial mismanagement.

The Mount Vernon City School District is facing criticism for failing to follow the district’s procurement policy, a move that has impacted the district’s classrooms and ability to fund school projects.

The state audit released by the auditor general’s office February 2018, covers the district’s financial behavior between June 2015 and April 2017.

Their primary goal is to decide whether the District purchased items in accordance with district’s procurement policy.

According to the state comptroller, district purchasing agent did not seek competition when seeking new vendors costing the city $13 Million dollars in large contracts. #MVCSD has a formalized procurement policy and bringing a single vendor in, unsolicited, to effectively solicit their services directly to the purchasing agent, when not part of a formal competitive bidding or qualification process, is in direct violation of the procurement policy. At a minimum, it leaves the impression that certain companies were given preference over another vendor who may have been similarly qualified to propose. There was no competitive bidding and the district wasn’t seeking competition for eight professional services providers who paid approximately $1.4 million.

Included in this report, #MVCSD advised the auditors that they did not have a permanent purchasing agent in place at the time of this audit. In fact two people were acting in this capacity and referred to there own staff as “inexperience” and it’s procedures as “inappropriate.” They also admitted to the auditors that they had capital clerks working as procurement agents.

State auditors also found one unauthorized employee who was allowed to override the procurement process and processed 31 purchases totaling $913,856.

The District paid out another 49 claims totaling $1 million without proper documentation.

This unauthorized employee processed more claims totaling $2.4 million but these claims were paid without the claims auditor’s authorization.

According to the audit report, “While all 98 claims were approved for payment by the claims auditor, 49 claims (50 percent) totaling $1,017,092 did not contain appropriate documentation, such as copies of the contractual agreements, to indicate that the prices charged by the vendors were correct. Therefore, the claims auditor could not determine whether the prices charged matched the contract prices. However, the claims auditor approved these claims for payment, which increased the risk of the District paying more for services than the agreed upon rates.”

The culture at the Mount Vernon City School District needs to change, said one resident. “There is clearly a problem with keeping their financial house in order.”

Students in Mount Vernon cannot afford to lose a single dollar that the district needs for classroom education and that is why mending the financial store is a critical responsibility.

The Mount Vernon City School District is operated by the Board of Education. The Board is responsible for managing the district’s operations. But its the purchasing agent who is responsible for the districts purchasing. On a daily basis, the districts purchasing agent(s) prepares purchase orders, solicit bid proposals, and review requisitions for goods and services needed to run the district.

One of the main responsibilities as a purchasing agent is to analyze price proposals, financial reports, and other data and information to determine reasonable prices.

The audit also found that the district lied in four responses to bidders as to why their bid was disqualified.

This is how it went down:

Apparently, the District disqualified four bid responses due to incomplete documentation.

But, when the state came in and did their audit, they found those missing documents WERE included IN the vendors bid file. So the information the district claim was missing was in fact in the bid. This practice took place multiple times.

Sadly, all four of those disqualified vendors, were also the lowest bidders.

Other findings outlined in the state audit include issues with the district’s transportation services.

The audit found that during the 2015 -16 school year, the district incorrectly paid more than $8.6 million in total for five separate transportation services.

When the auditors ask for all documentation related to transportation services, the purchasing agent and transportation supervisor told them the documentation was either misplaced or in storage.

While putting her child on the bus, Ms. Brown of Mount Vernon said “it’s just a total and complete lack of internal controls or safeguards. I think it’s really important that they follow the rules and do things in such a manner that people feel their money is well spent and there’s greater oversight.”

The #MVCSD is the employer of 1,955 people and back in 2015-16 approximately 8,096 students were enrolled.

The 2017-18 Budgeted Appropriation is at $246,169,123

The full audit report is available below.

State Comptrollers Office A… BLACK WESTCHESTER on Scribd

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About A'tif Khalil (18 Articles)
A'tif K. Coleman is a lifelong resident of Mount Vernon who has become a Mount Vernon Columnist for Black Westchester. A'tif's passion and love of the city he was born and bred drives him to wanting to inform the residents and speak truth to power and corruption. Mr. Coleman is also one half of the founders of the Save Mount Vernon movement.
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