Report: Florida school district audits reveal numerous oversight issues

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(The Center Square) — The Florida Auditor General examined significant findings and financial trends in district school board audit reports and found issues needing correction, such as weaknesses in financial oversight and information technology security.

The report covered audit reports for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2022, and found several weaknesses in internal controls, for example, audits found instances of noncompliance with laws, rules or regulations. These were found in 43 of the 67 audit reports.

According to the report, five different school district audits included findings that the AG considered material weaknesses. One of those five school districts, along with another four additional school district audit reports, also found noncompliance for major federal programs.

For 18 school districts, it was found that various information technology controls needed to have improved security management and access. This included 12 school districts giving certain employees full control over district network accounts or full access to financial or human resource applications, allowing people to perform functions outside their job descriptions.

Five school districts’ audit reports addressed control deficiencies related to control over application software, servers, networks, operating systems, and end-user devices. The AG noted this puts these school districts at risk of cybersecurity attacks.

Three school districts needed to improve their existing IT disaster recovery plans. While some school districts had implemented recovery plans, some lacked critical elements and details. Some districts also lacked proper data protection for sensitive or confidential data.

Weaknesses were found in financial record keeping and records management with at least 13 school districts, which included not submitting timely financial reports to the Florida Department of Education. Four of these school districts were cited as having deficient budgetary controls, which resulted in a declining general fund balance.

A lack of cash controls over program fees, inadequate background screenings for employees in close contact with students, and a need to improve employment practices and employee ethical conduct practices were also identified by the AG.

Analyses of financial trends noted that no single factor was identified as a guaranteed predictor. However, taxable property values, student enrollment numbers, and the size of schools will likely have a significant impact on future funding.

For school districts that failed to take corrective action, the AG is required by state law to notify the Legislative Auditing Committee, with nine school districts reported as failing to take action.

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