Mismanagement prompts Dept. of Ed takeover at ASD

Tennessee Department of Education officials have been quietly taken over because of inept handling of fiscal affairs, according to a Comptroller’s audit outlined to legislators Wednesday. The actions included dismissal of the entire financial management staff at ASD. The audit reported troubles ranging from a $2,500 expenditure for a party where liquor was served to generally loose oversight of money.

Further from the Times-Free Press:

The intervention, which began last fall, only came to light Wednesday — the result of the public release of a blistering state comptroller performance audit that represented the watchdog agency’s first comprehensive look at the district’s internal controls since it was created in 2010.

Many of the findings don’t look good for the agency created to help low-performing schools. (Note: Full audit HERE)

The ASD, which has functioned apart from the Education department until now, manages directly or contracts with private charter school operators to run 33 schools in Nashville and Memphis.

Division of State Audit accountants found problems in these main areas:

– Management did not establish adequate controls over several key human resources and payroll processes.

– There was a failure to implement adequate internal controls over expenditures, travel claims and purchasing cards.

– Management did not perform “sufficient fiscal monitoring of its direct-run schools and charter management organizations.

– ASD officials also didn’t provide adequate internal controls in another area that auditors wouldn’t even name.

However, they did cite a provision in the state’s Open Records Act that excludes, among other things, disclosure of sensitive computer security issues and personal information from the public’s right to know.

Translated into some practical terms, problems included reimbursements for excessive travel claims and $2,500 for alcohol at an office celebration.

Other problems included improperly continuing to pay salaries and benefits to terminated employees after their last day worked. That resulted in taxpayer-funded salary overpayments totaling $5,891, according to the audit.

Officials also had loose controls over employee time and attendance.