Audit finds problems in Achievement School District’s books

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- The State of Tennessee Comptroller of the Treasury's Office audited the Department of Education and State Board of Education. It found problems in the way the Achievement School District handled federal dollars and the way payments were being processed.

Schools become a part of the ASD when they are performing in the bottom five percent of schools in the state.

Representative Antonio Parkinson learned Friday his fellow legislator, Representative Mike Stewart, is calling for more transparency.

"The bottom line is just make sure we have the oversight in place to ensure that the taxpayer dollars are being accounted for," Parkinson said, referring to a possible lack of checks and balances within ASD.

In an audit released late last year, the state comptroller found the ASD bought services with federal money before a grant actually took effect, and ASD failed to adequately review invoices paid to charter management organizations.

The audit covers June 1, 2012 through June 30, 2014.

During fiscal year 2013, the ASD had six schools under its belt. It managed three and charter management organizations ran three.

The audit says in 2012, the ASD paid $126,905 for services between March 1st and June 30th,but it was using a School Improvement Grants that didn't go into effect until April 30th.

Since then, the ASD reversed the transaction and used money from a different fund.

In the ASD, A Public Grants Manager is supposed to sign off on things.

During the time of the audit, there was high turnover in that position.

Investigators found that in between hires, other employees did not assume that role.

That meant $66,336.18 in unsupported expenditures went out.

After that finding, ASD changed its policy.

Payments to charter operators are now treated like reimbursements, not funds in advance.

A representative for the Tennessee Department of Education responded for both her own organization and ASD, saying, "All findings from this audit have already been addressed and resolved.
We are committed to using the findings from this audit to improve our processes and better serve the students of the state... The ASD took the following corrective action to address the audit findings:

-The ASD charged $126,905 of the questioned cost to the federal Race to the Top program, which was allowable.
-The ASD required three Charter Management Organizations to repay the remaining $66,336 in questioned costs, and credited those repayments to the School Improvement Grant program.
-In January 2014, the ASD improved its internal controls and implemented a more thorough review process for reimbursement requests submitted by Charter Management Organizations.
-The ASD updated its Financial Policies and Procedures Manual."

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