Audit findings lead to improved policies and procedures for UPSB

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The Union Parish School Board recently received the results of its 2018-2019 Legislative Audit. This audit was begun in 2019 but due to COVID-19, there was a delay in completing the audit process. While most areas of the audit passed inspection, there were some irregular findings that warranted further attention.

One of these findings has resulted in more security awareness and training for online activities. Auditors noted that the school board was the victim of a phishing scam that resulted in the transfer of $8,014 to an unknown bank account at Green Dot, Inc. The audit found that the board lacked clear procedures for wire transfers and had no security awareness or training programs for employees. Kristy Fine, Superintendent of Schools for Union Parish confirmed that Union Parish School Board was a victim of a phishing scam in the 1st quarter of 2019.

“The theft was self-reported to local law enforcement, our insurance carrier, our individual auditing firm, and the Louisiana Legislative Auditors,” said Fine. At the time of the theft, UPSB lacked controls over wire transfers and adequate security training was not in place to make employees aware of cyber threats. As a result of this incident, wire transfer protocols were immediately developed and the human resources department provided all employees with Internet, email and network usage policies to heighten security awareness. “The information technology and professional development departments will continue to provide district-wide cyber security training,” Fine said.

Auditors also found that the board’s schedule of expenditures and Federal Awards contained inaccurate information and was not properly reconciled to accounting records. This finding was nothing more than an error in record keeping. “One newly awarded grant was not added to the schedule of awards at the time it was awarded. The grant was budgeted and accounted for properly, but could not be reconciled to the accounting records because it had been left off the original schedule,” said Fine. Procedures have been reviewed and updated to add multiple layers of recordkeeping checks and balances.

A lack of policies and procedures for payroll disbursements, inaccurate cash reconciliations for the operating and payroll accounts and a lack of documentation to show reconciliations were reviewed and approved were found when auditors reviewed payroll policies. “The payroll department has reviewed and updated the salary schedule, ensured all personnel contracts are aligned to that schedule and peri odically review payroll data and procedures to ensure records are accurate and aligned,” said Fine. The auditors also found that no policies or procedures were in place for changing purchase orders or for documenting and approving journal entries. “Our purchasing policy has been reviewed and edited and is currently in the process of being board approved,” Fine said. She also added that the school district is now using an electronic purchase order system that allows staff to monitor and approve more efficiently. This system allows purchase orders, invoices and quotes to be tracked electronically.

Finally the audit revealed that the board failed to adopt budgets for 20 special revenue funds or to obtain three quotes each for two purchases between $10,000 and $30,000 as required by law. Fine confirmed that the district failed to adopt a consolidated budget in a timely manner. This did occur while the district was under different leadership. “Procedures have since been reviewed to ensure that budgets are adopted, reviewed and amended as required by the Louisiana Revised Statute 39:1305 of the Louisiana Local Government Budget Act,” Find said. Fine continued, “Obtaining three quotes for purchases between $10,000 and $30,000 is a usual practice of the Union Parish School Board. All applicable personnel are aware of the purchasing policies and the state procurement requirements. Our purchasing policy has been reviewed and edited and is currently in the process of being board approved.”

While this audit concerns the 2018-2019 fiscal year, it should be noted that the board was under the previous administration at the time. However, Fine believes that the current administration and leadership of the UPSB can learn invaluable lessons from the findings of this audit. “The process was grueling, yet enlightening, for our business department because many of them were new to their positions and were pulling data and information recorded by the previous business team,” said Fine. Each finding has been thoroughly reviewed and investigated. “The experience was a great learning experience. The board and I were disheartened by the findings, but have used this as an opportunity to update policies and procedures and educate every single employee on how to improve areas of weakness,” Fine said.

Fine and the Union Parish School Board are looking forward and expect much-improved and positive future audits.