WHEELING, W.Va. (WBOY) — A legislative audit has shown that the West Virginia Department of Education (WVDE) “lacks the capacity and structure” to effectively monitor the way local school districts spent emergency federal COVID-19 money.
The Performance Evaluation and Research Division’s (PERD) report, released during Monday’s legislative interim meetings in Wheeling, warns that looser oversight from the state increased the risk of fraud, waste and abuse of federal money.
The audit showed the WVDE missed instances where county school systems improperly followed purchasing procedures, engaged in unallowable spending or used vendors that weren’t registered with the West Virginia Secretary of State’s Office.
Among the audit’s findings, of the 29 Local Education Agencies (LEAs) that the WVDE determined were compliant with proper purchasing procedures, PERD’s review of the same transactions found that seven of them were non-compliant.
The PERD audit made a series of recommendations to the WVDE:
- The WVDE should increase its monitoring and internal controls capacity by assigning more personnel to assist with cyclical monitoring.
- Consideration should be given by the WVDE to use the administrative portion of Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) funds to hire additional temporary staff to assist in the fiscal monitoring.
- The fiscal monitoring process should be established in writing with specifics on what program monitors should examine. Such monitoring instruments should instruct program monitors to examine if vendors are registered with the Secretary of State, list every type of purchasing violation that should be reviewed and specify key aspects of internal control that must be reviewed such as segregation of duties, the approval chain of command, the proper use of P-cards and credit cards and other specific elements of internal control as the WVDE determines appropriate.
- The WVDE should renew its communication with LEAs to re-emphasize proper purchasing procedures.
- The WVDE should routinely review the purchasing practices of LEAs during non-emergency conditions to reinforce proper purchasing procedures.
- When appropriate, the WVDE should encourage LEAs to utilize alternative procurement options designated by Policy 8200, such as educational services cooperatives and pre-existing state contracts that permit “piggybacking” to facilitate purchasing processes during states of emergency.
- The WVDE should incorporate in Policy 8200, and in the monitoring instrument for ESSER monitoring the requirement that LEAs use vendors that are appropriately registered with the Secretary of State and State Tax Department to be authorized to do business in West Virginia.
- The WVDE should clearly define which section of Policy 8200 applies to LEAs for ESSER-related purchases and for purchases made in the future under potentially similar circumstances.
To read the full audit report, click here.