The Recovery School District failed to account for more than $7 million of property in the current financial year, Legislative Auditor Daryl Purpera said Monday.
Most of the items are computers and laptops, said RSD officials, who disputed the findings.
“For the eighth consecutive year, RSD did not ensure that movable property was safeguarded against loss, resulting in unlocated property with a total acquisition cost of $7,041,340 in the current year,” according to an overview that accompanied the report.
“Failure to comply with state equipment management regulations increases the risk that assets may be misreported, lost or stolen,” Purpera said. “In addition, the year-to-year cost of replacing lost or stolen movable property could reduce the availability of funds for (federal or state) for other educational objectives.”
The Recovery School District oversees 59 public schools statewide taken over by the state for poor performance.
The district often triggers controversy.
Backers contend schools run by the RSD have shown remarkable academic progress, especially because many of them, especially in New Orleans, produced dismally low scores before they were taken over.
Critics argue that any gains in the classroom are vastly overstated and that, in many cases, the schools have failed to show substantive progress despite heavy funding.
The report said that, in a test conducted between July 2012 and December 2013, 627 assets totaling $2.5 million were not entered in the Louisiana Property Assistance Agency as required.
Others were improperly entered into the code, items purchased with federal funds were erroneously recorded and more than $700,000 in assets was listed as “in transit,” which is not a physical location.
The review said “unlocated property” in the RSD totaled $735,000 last year and $1.5 million the year before.
RSD Superintendent Patrick Dobard said Monday the report is misleading.
Dobard said 84 percent of the computers and other equipment cited by Purpera — roughly $6 million — was bought in 2006 and 2007.
“We have to keep in mind the state does not account for depreciation of assets,” he said. “In real-time value today, they would have no value.”
Asked about the other $1 million, Dobard said, “A million dollars is a lot. We want to continue to drive that number down to zero.”
He said RSD officials have launched a push recently to remind schools that even computers and other equipment that have been discarded have to be accounted for with the state.
The Legislative Auditor’s Office and the RSD also offered sharply different views on how equipment is overseen now.
The report said the RSD’s monitoring is plagued by inaccurate and incomplete information, property custodians are inadequately trained and RSD managers fail to enforce the policies.
In a written response, Dobard said his agency has made “tremendous progress” in addressing issues raised previously by Purpera.
More than a year ago, Dobard wrote, RSD leaders decided to devote more resources to the oversight, ensuring better management and stronger controls.
“The property department received new leadership, a new property manager and additional support staff,” according to the response letter.
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