Routine audit uncovers “alarming business practices” at Hinds Co. school district

Due to poor accounting controls, over $54,000 in adjustments were made during the audit to reconcile the district’s bank statements.

Routine audit uncovers “alarming business practices” at Hinds Co. school district

HINDS COUNTY, Miss. (WLBT) - Several alarming business practices were discovered at the Hinds County School District during a routine audit by State Auditor Shad White

According to Shad White, auditors found what they described as poor controls over the district credit cards and bank accounts which had not been reconciled in nearly a year.

They also found that spending records had been destroyed before they were reviewed, and the school district failed to adhere to some purchasing laws.

White says that their office also found that one assistant superintendent is responsible for more than $50,000 in improper expenditures.

“The auditor’s office just restarted compliance audits of school districts for the first time in a few years, and already we have seen serious issues,” said State Auditor Shad White.

According to the auditor’s office, findings include:

· The chief financial officer – an assistant superintendent – was not monitored appropriately and is responsible for nearly $50,000 of improper expenditures. The assistant superintendent initiated a contract to provide a personal “car allowance” in addition to salary without board approval. This caused a $33,000 loss to the district. Auditors also determined the assistant superintendent used district funds to make personal purchases like a monthly in-air internet subscription, a stay in a luxury hotel suite, and other unapproved charges costing taxpayers nearly $10,000.

· Due to poor accounting controls, over $54,000 in adjustments were made during the audit to reconcile the district’s bank statements. Errors made while inputting transactions were originally not discovered in part because bank reconciliations did not occur regularly.

· Not all credit card statements were reviewed by the district, and several purchases were made without required written justification. Credit limits on various cards were exceeded, and improper purchases were made.

· The district purchased iPads and Apple laptops worth nearly $2 million without a competitive bidding process. Mississippi purchase laws require competitive bids for most large purchases to ensure taxpayers receive the best price for goods and services.

“This uncontrolled and unlawful administrative spending is not acceptable,” said White. “It shortchanges teachers and students. It’s not fair for taxpayers. They all have a right to be angry about this kind of administrative spending. It results in money going outside the classroom and it violates our spending laws. I expect the district to take swift action to make sure this stops.”

Audit findings related to the assistant superintendent have been forwarded to the Auditor’s Investigations Division.

The Mississippi Office of the State Auditor says they will not discuss any pending investigation and have no further comment on the matter.

The Hinds County School District released a statement in response to these findings.

Read their statement below:

"Hinds County School District (HCSD) has been working with the Mississippi Office of the State Auditor (OSA) over the last several weeks while auditors investigated the claims included in the report. In the meantime, the District has been working diligently to address the issues outlined in the state auditor’s report. In addition to addressing each of the items included in the OSA report, we will be completing the following activities to ensure our District maintains strong financial health and integrity:

  • Conducting a full review of current school district fiscal policies, practices and procedures
  • Revising current school district fiscal policies, practices and procedures as needed
  • Conducting financial training with all district and school staff responsible for fiscal activities

We are proud to report that the district remains on strong financial footing, and the guidance shared by the OSA will help us further strengthen our fiscal controls as we seek to maximize our investments in tools and technology that will help our students prepare for college and careers.We will continue our efforts to safely and effectively invest and spend public funds to ensure that every student in HCSD has access to the resources they need to succeed."

We will continue to bring you the latest on this developing story.

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