CCSD officials respond to state auditor report

Joshua Kellogg
Central Consolidated School District Interim Superintendent Colleen Bowman says the district was prepared to be placed on the state auditor’s "At-Risk" list.

SHIPROCK – Central Consolidated School District administrators say they are viewing the district's recent labeling as an “At-Risk” entity by the state Auditor’s Office as an opportunity to correct financial and accounting practices.

The office of the state Auditor Tim Keller announced on April 18 that CCSD, along with Lordsburg Municipal Schools and Roy Municipal Schools, had been added to the auditor’s "At-Risk" list for having a problematic audit for the 2015 financial year, according to a press release.

According to the 2015 CCSD audit prepared by Accounting and Financial Solutions, the district has 14 findings, and the auditor issued a “disclaimer of opinion.”

Sunalei Stewart, chief of staff for the state auditor, said in an email a “disclaimer of opinion” means the auditor couldn’t issue an opinion about the accuracy of the district’s financial states due to a lack of reliable financial information from the district.

“It is important for governmental agencies to keep accurate records to safeguard public funds,” Stewart said.

CCSD Interim Superintendent Colleen Bowman said on Wednesday the district was prepared to be placed on the state auditor’s "At-Risk" list based on the work involved in helping produce the audit.

“I knew something wasn’t going to be good out of the audit because of all the findings we were starting to see come forth,” Bowman said.

Bowman and district Business Manager Herbie Clichee both said they are dedicated to correcting the 14 findings — some of which have been repeat findings since 2011 — one at a time.

“It’s not going to be fixed overnight,” Clichee said.

The state Auditor’s Office expressed concern about reconciled bank accounts with balances of $29 million and unverifiable payroll-related liabilities for salaries totaling $3.3 million.

During the reconciliation process, the district’s general ledger did not match what the bank statements said, according to Clichee.

He attributed some of the issues to a transition to a new financial software system about four years ago as some data related to payroll was not being input correctly.

Other findings in the 2015 audit show the district has repeatedly failed to follow certain accounting procedures.

The district has been cited for three straight years for employees making purchases prior to the approval of a purchase order. The audit also includes a finding stating the district has not met the audit reporting deadline for the last four years.

A new finding for the 2015 audit said the auditor tested 30 receipts, and two receipts were issued from an unauthorized receipt book for a total of $1,451. The audit stated the receipts could not be traced to any deposits or receipt reports, and the unauthorized receipt book was used to receive cash.

One finding stated an employee resigned after being confronted about selling district supplies on the Internet. The audit said the total amount sold was less than $500.

Bowman said it was important to establish true procedural steps and ensure they are followed by district employees who will be held accountable for their actions.

“That’s one of our biggest problems,” Bowman said. “We weren’t holding them accountable, and now we are. We have to.”

Joshua Kellogg covers education for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4627.