BY BUDDY NEVINS
It is just the news The Broward School Board didn’t need while it was trying to pave the way for a new huge bond issue:
Over $1 million in financial mismanagement has been uncovered.
First, Board members found out that the transportation department has misplaced $990,692 in equipment.
Among the items missing:
Ford Explorers, a Bobcat front end loader, over one hundred costly two way radios, six huge generators, a fork lift, computers, printers and even a defibrillator.
Then, the Board discovered that the school system’s special investigative unit had been overpaying a private security firm. Auditors say at least $86,460 is owed the schools because of SIU’s mistake.
Ironically the SIU responsible with policing school employees, including scrutinizing the way they spend money.
It is an embarrassment to the Board and Superintendent Robert Runcie.
A top goal of Runcie and the Board is to prove the days of fiscal bungling and misspending have ended. The misspending and corruption that caused some of it prompted a stinging statewide Grand Jury report a few years ago.
The findings by school system auditors released this week showed there is still a lot of work to do.
Charlotte Greenbarg was stunned. She is veteran school system watchdog and a member of the Board’s Audit Committee, which heard the report this week.
“I wrote across the top of my papers ‘Anarchy’,” she said.
In the department which handles school buses the mistake was massive. There were 332 items that transportation supervisors could not find.
“No explanation was given. It’s the way the transportation (division) was run. Those people have been unaccountable for years,” Greenbarg said.
Chief Auditor Patrick Reilly told the Audit Committee that he doesn’t know what happened. The items could be misplaced, mislabeled, disposed of or stolen.
The missing items included everything from an Apple IBook computer, which cost taxpayers $1,531.50, to two four-door Ford Explorers XLT 4X2 trucks that the auditors priced at $20,857 apiece.
There were six large generators unaccounted that cost from $80,320 for one manufactured by Caterpillar to $27,320 for a Whisperwatt Isuzu Diesel.
Some items were specialized: $6,142 worth of Nitrogen; $1,246 of cooler oil; $2,297 in exhauster system clamps and pipes and a $2,995 car vacuum.
School system auditors uncovered that the equipment was missing in a routine property audit completed May 18, 2012.
Auditors demanded to know where the missing property was. Their requests were ignored by transportation officials until this month.
The Audit Committee gave the transportation department another month to find at least some of the merchandise.
The school police are in a different situation: paying too much to U. S. Security Associates.
U. S. Security Associates was hired to guard the School Board headquarters and various school bus facilities.
Reilly said that SIU officials had “inadequate internal control procedures.”
Because SIU failed to monitor its contract, guards were allowed work more hours than the contract permitted and unnecessary overtime was paid.
SIU also continued to pay the firm after its contract ended and had no time records of when guards worked, auditors said in their report.
The school’s Chief of Police David Golt blamed the former SIU director for having insufficient safeguards and promised to improve procedures in the future.
Greenbarg said she was optimistic that the administrative shake-ups that Superintendent Robert Runcie instituted a year ago would eventually show improvement.
But Greenbarg is representative of many voters. She has been very critical of the School Board’s financial missteps.
Whether these voters will back a bond issue, which could come as earlier as next year, remains to be seen.
Just two out of 11 pages of missing items from the transportation department (click to enlarge):