Cumberland Times-News

February 9, 2013


Audit shows schools have problems to address

Cumberland Times-News

— The discrepancies found in the state’s audit of the Allegany County public school system are serious deficiencies that need the school board’s prompt attention.

The audit was performed by the Maryland Office of Legislative Audits and, among other things, found the school system had $4 million in losses of food service and a serious backlog of billing Medicaid for reimbursable services.

Although Randall Bittinger, the school system’s chief business officer, noted that the audit’s findings are recommendations and carry no penalty or enforcement aspect, the deficiencies are disturbing and need not be treated with a cavalier attitude.

Losses in food service appear to be caused in part by a productivity level that needs to be improved. The audit said cafeteria managers at each school are responsible for ordering food items and supplies, receiving orders and maintaining inventory records, but this is done without any independent oversight or supervisory review.

As for Medicaid reimbursements, the system stands to lose those payments if it is more than 12 months in arrears in billing. Seeing that billing is done within a one-year period hardly seems a task that is beyond the school board’s control.

Among other findings by the state auditors:

• The school system, which offers employees a self-insured health care plan administered through Carefirst, paid the provider $16.4 million plus a $1 million  administrative fee without verifying the billing.

• Payments of $1.3 million were made to a physical and occupational therapy provider without proper documentation, such as time sheets and student names.

• The school system did not adequately solicit competitive bids, specifically to two architectural and engineering contracts, totalling $130,000.

• The school system failed to get independent confirmation during procurement and vendor payment functions.

Dr. David Cox, superintendent of Allegany County public schools, disagreed with several points made in the audit and was permitted to respond to the state agency.

The school board must closely monitor improvements and make the audit findings a standard agenda item for its monthly meetings. Progress on meeting these deficiencies is something that can be easily measured — and it is the board’s job to make sure proper oversight is in place.