For those who may not know, Camden, NJ is a place God forgot. It is small, violent, mostly black, and very poor. Now, ask yourselves this: do you expect to read a story like the following about a place that is pinching every penny, or is it more likely that bureaucrats and careerists are wallowing in other people's money? And, after reading the article, is the first thought that comes to your mind something like, "Yea! Let's give these people MORE money", or might it be something else?
The operative phrase in this sad article about a sad place is, "sweeping financial mismangement".
PAY: Checks issued after death Camden schools audit: "questionable" purchases Posted by the Asbury Park Press on 02/1/07 BY MATT KATZ AND SARAH GREENBLATT GANNETT NEW JERSEY
Post Comment CAMDEN ? A Camden schools employee was issued $130,000 since his death in 1974 while paychecks also were printed for three others with birth dates in the future, according to an audit of the district that found sweeping financial mismanagement.
The court-ordered audit released by the state Department of Education on Tuesday shows widespread irregularities in record-keeping; hundreds of "questionable" financial transactions; contracts for transportation and other services awarded without competition; and 996 instances of vendors being paid more than the purchase-order amount.
Of 334 purchasing transactions analyzed, 264 lacked appropriate documentation or were otherwise "questionable," the report found. The audit did not identify the dead workers or those with birth dates in the future.
The Department of Education stressed Wednesday that it is unclear whether money was actually paid to a dead person.
Kathryn Forsyth, a spokeswoman for the education department, said the money could have been paid to a living employee but due to a clerical mistake by either the Social Security Administration, which tracks death records, or the school district, that person appeared dead. Or, she said, a living employee could have intentionally used a dead person's Social Security number.
Vendors were paid more than the amounts listed on purchase orders to the tune of $17.3 million during the 2004-06 audit period. Nearly $1.2 million of that went to attorneys and an insurance company.
The audit was released as part of a state Supreme Court mandate to assess expenditures in Abbott school districts. It found 63 lapses in internal controls, 41 of which have what the auditors term high immediate risk. The audit also found an antiquated file-keeping and technological system.
District officials have 45 days to file a corrective action plan, and in a statement Tuesday said they welcomed the findings.
"Through the audit findings, we will be able to deliver effective and efficient service to children and to staff," interim Superintendent Leonard Fitts said. "The report will institute internal controls that will help the district conduct our business to meet the highest standards of accounting and spending in the future."
The report mentions former Superintendent Annette Knox, who received reimbursements that exceeded purchase order amounts by a total of $7,265.
Purchase orders are regularly altered with handwritten notes, the audit found. A purchase order for photocopier equipment was $55,000; the district paid $953,000.
The report from KPMG, a global consulting firm based in New York, said the district does not have enough employees with the appropriate skills to "effectively conduct its operations."
Payroll records are in such disarray that there is little supervision for the approval of overtime funds. Unusually high pay hikes were found from one year to the next, and some employees were paid for up to 365 days after being fired.
A number of employees were on the payroll after their deaths, including 10 who were issued a total of $380,000 in compensation after dying. One employee, hired in 1966 and dead since 1974, was listed as retired in 2006. He was issued checks of $130,000 after taxes. Many employees lack personnel files, while three employees have birth dates sometime in the future ? such as Sept. 17, 2048.
The auditors said they had trouble collecting some information because data is routinely purged at the end of each year.
David Sciarra, executive director of the Education Law Center, which monitors Abbott districts, said the ball is now in the state's court.
"In recent years, we've seen a multitude of audits, investigation reports and corrective action plans, left on a shelf without follow-through by state education officials," he wrote in a statement.