One wreck audits another.
State auditor Beth Wood appears on her way to getting away with unsuccessfully trying to jump a parked car with a state car — all while departing an after-hours ‘holiday’ soiree hosted by Rufus ‘Showtime’ Edmisten.
Meanwhile, over at the state Department of Public Instruction , Republican-In-Name-Only Catherine Truitt appears to be presiding over a ‘train wreck’ — featuring multiple flirtations with DEI and CRT, coddling of accused sex offenders, as well as some serious fiscal mismanagement.
This story — a literal wreck vs. a figurative one – is chock full of irony that O. Henry himself would have loved.
Wood’s office dropped an audit yesterday that revealed some serious financial mismanagement in Truitt’s shop. This couldn’t have come at a worse time for Truitt.
Tricia Cotham just switched parties. She has been eyeing a run for DPI for a decade. And Raleigh Republicans are ready to give her anything she wants.
Now, back to the audit. Here are some of the more interesting tidbits:
[…] Auditors reviewed the awards and expenditures reported in the ESSER Annual Report and identified errors for 138 (52%) PSUs. Specifically:
- 119 PSUs were included with inaccurate amounts, resulting in total errors in awards and expenditures of $1.89 million and $13.89 million, respectively.
- 17 PSUs were included but had no award or expenditure activity, resulting in overreported awards and expenditures of $1.69 million and $234,764, respectively.
- Two PSUs were omitted, resulting in underreported awards and expenditures of $113,266 and $113,133, respectively.[…]
(PSUs are “public school units.).
Finances were screwed up for 52 percent of the schools that got the money. And we’re looking at total errors in excess of $15 million!
Now, what would happen to me or you if our private sector bosses discovered our $15 million worth of errors?
[…] The Department of Public Instruction (Department) did not report complete, accurate, and timely subaward information for some subrecipients of the Education Stabilization Fund – Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) program to the Federal Funding Accountability and Transparency Act (FFATA) Subaward Reporting System (FSRS).
During the reporting period,6 the Department made ESSER subawards totaling $1.82 billion7 to public school units (PSUs). Auditors tested a sample of 60 subawards that were required to be reported to the FSRS and found the following errors:
- 30 subawards were overreported by $140 million because they were reported twice.
- 21 subawards totaling $39.2 million were reported 175 to 206 days late.
- 8 subawards totaling $12.3 million were not reported at all.In addition, auditors reviewed the 52 subawards that were reported to FSRS and found errors in one or more key data elements.8The FFATA was enacted to empower every American citizen with the ability to hold the government accountable for each spending decision. When subaward information is not reported accurately or timely to the FSRS, citizens do not have reliable information about how federal funds are being used in their communities.[…]
Overlooking more than $12 million? Wow. Just, just, just — WOW.
Of course, Team Truitt had a response for some of this:
The North Carolina Department of Public Instruction (DPI) is pleased to submit our response to your findings in connection with the 2021 federal compliance audit. We agree with the findings and recommendations contained in the report and appreciate the assistance provided by the Office of State Auditor (OSA). In our responses below, you will find actions we have taken or are currently taking to resolve the issues noted.
Finding 1: Inaccurate Annual Reporting (ESSER)
OSA Recommendation: Department management should develop and implement review procedures over the ESSER Annual Report data received from the PSUs to ensure accuracy with internal financial records.
The Department of Public Instruction concurs with the Auditor’s finding and recommendation. Processes for future reporting have been amended to ensure additional controls are in place to promote greater accuracy. Required data elements will be pulled from internal DPI data to the extent possible. Data elements still requiring the use of self-reported data from Public School Units (PSUs) will be verified for inaccuracies prior to being aggregated for state agency reporting.
Finding 2: Errors in FFATA Reporting (ESSER)
OSA Recommendation: Department management should prioritize assignment of reporting responsibilities and implement contingency plans to address staff shortages. In addition, Department management should continue to seek solutions from the federal oversight agency on technical difficulties and implement revised procedures as solutions are identified to ensure complete, accurate, and timely reporting.
The Department of Public Instruction concurs with the Auditor’s finding and recommendation. Additional staff was employed in fall of 2021 to complete FFATA reporting requirements. Technical considerations in the FFATA system remain a concern as the system constrains the number of entries per award to 100 per month making it impossible to report awards within the required time limit. Additional requests to the federal oversight agency for technical assistance with the system have been made by DPI.[…]
[…] Finding 3: Inadequate Monitoring (ESSER)
OSA Recommendation: Department management should review and revise monitoring activities. In addition, Department management should establish contingency plans to address staff shortages.
The Department of Public Instruction concurs with the Auditor’s finding and recommendation.
Internal programmatic monitoring procedures were amended with the addition of ESSER II and ESSER III in 2021. A risk assessment, monitoring plan, four-element monitoring instrument, and monitoring schedule were created and approved in March 2021. The monitoring plan enables all PSUs receiving funding through ESSER I, II, and III programs to have a compliance monitoring event by September 30, 2024, the end of ESSER period of availability. In fall 2021, additional staff dedicated to ESSER program were hired to assist with grant administration and monitoring. The aforementioned documents will be formally submitted as part of an update to the initial ESSER Monitoring and Internal Control Plan that was originally submitted in fall 2020 to the U.S. Department of Education.
The Department agrees that it was not able to complete the full scope of the initial fiscal monitoring plan by June 30, 2021. This is due to lack of staffing resources, which is a challenge that is not unique to DPI, as a result of the world-wide COVID pandemic. Given the resources available, the staff prioritized those PSUs at the highest risk level. In addition to the 12 that were completed by June 30, 2021, we have since completed 23, with the remaining 5 to be completed by March 31, 2022.
We are actively addressing our staffing shortages via several avenues:
1. Contracting for specific ESSER grant programs with qualified auditing firms.
2. Actively recruiting to fill our vacant fiscal monitoring positions (2 have been filled since June 30, 2021).[….]
So, nearly three years into the term — Team Truitt does not have the staff to fulfill the requirements of the job?
Those are some big 8- and 9-digit question marks (with dollar signs). And we’re blaming staffing and computers? When Truitt has had a legislative majority from her own party in control?
I guess Harry Truman was wrong. The buck — at least at DPI — DOES NOT stop HERE.
4 thoughts on “One wreck audits another.”
Put me on the state school board and I will ensure it gets fixed.
It isn’t difficult.
Just get rid of the lazy, incompetent, and/or ideologically driven administrators/bureaucrats and replace them with highly qualified and driven individuals who are singularly focused on what is best for the education of our students and for the taxpayers of NC.
It is that easy, but very few elected officials or board appointees seem to have the knowledge of what to do, the will to actually do it, or they don’t really care enough to do it as they are there only for the prestige and cocktail parties.
Again. It isn’t that difficult and we are proving that at Moore County Schools.
Although I don’t Auditor Beth Wood to be my future Uber driver I am aghast at the discrepancies and shoddy financial controls she has discovered at the DPI. At one of the first state GOP Conventions I attended either Senator Berger or then Speaker Tillis vowed to eliminate the DPI and turn their pink building into something else. It is unfortunate that that was just another empty promise by a politician seeking support. Our schools are failing and the apparent waste and misuse of taxpayer funds is appalling, no matter the party affiliation of the person running the DPI. i think it is time to get “Mr. Financial Fix It”. Dale Folwell involved in total state management and the financial oversight of all of North Carolina.
What is needed is a conservative primary challenge to this liberal loser Truitt, and NOT by liberal Tricia Cotham. We need a strong and dependable conservative in that primary.
This whole situation is very sad to me. Truitt certainly needs to go. I had a bill ready to submit in 2021, entitled, “Actually Get Rid of Common Core.” It was meant to be the culmination of my fight since 2013 to get rid of Common Core, which had been thwarted at every turn by people who will tell you that they did get rid of it, when all they did was tweak the ELA Standards and change the name. When another House member and I went to discuss the bill with Truitt, she told me, “You don’t need to run that bill. We are due to review the education standards next year, and we’ll get rid of it then.” Unfortunately, I took her word for it and didn’t run my bill, which Tim Moore would probably not have allowed to be heard, anyway. Of course, nothing was done last year.
The mess with Beth Wood is also very sad. I was on the Subcommittee on General Government of the Appropriations Committee the whole time I was in Raleigh. Beth Wood reported to us every year. I was very impressed with her professionalism and integrity. If she had to audit someone, it didn’t matter to her if it was a Republican, Democrat or anything else, if she audited you, you had better have your stuff straight. Rep. Michael Speciale and I worked with her to get an audit of DOT, and she did a very good job of it. I told her a few times that she was the only Democrat who always got my vote, and that as far as I was concerned, she could keep that job as long as she wanted it. Now, I’m having to rethink that. It is a sad situation, indeed.
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