By Mark F. Gray
According to a report released by the Maryland Department of Legislative Audits, Prince George’s County Public Schools (PGCPS) didn’t properly follow the procedures to adequately document and justify its spending, while awarding over $80 million in contracts to vendors.
This audit concluded PGCPS didn’t follow state law and calls for changes in its procedures to justify the expenditures for future contracts. It cited previous failures in procurement documentation, personnel and payroll transactions, human resources and “identified security and control risks that existed” within computer systems and networks.
PGCPS was found to not have provided the required documentation for 13 of 15 “sole source” contracts totaling $6.8 million. The school system was also cited for its inability to validate using Intergovernmental Cooperative Purchasing Agreements (ICPA) for a contract that purchased goods and services amounting to almost $35 million since 2014.
“Our audit disclosed that in a number of financial areas, PGCPS needs to establish better procedures and internal controls and ensure those processes are effectively operating to comply with its policies to control cost,” wrote legislative auditor Gregory A. Hook.
One of the specific procedural findings involved the lack of rationale in salary increases for executive employees or the need to report them to the Prince George’s County School Board. During fiscal year 2017, the audit surmised, 13 executive employees were awarded raises between two and 20 percent, which amounted to $157,103. The review also disclosed “a general lack of justification for 11 of the 13 employees” who received those pay increases.
Supervisors also had the ability to change time cards and reward overtime unilaterally through the automated payroll system without an independent review. Nearly 400 principals and administrators were not adequately limited when choosing to give addition overtime employees and there was no oversight.
The audit also concluded PGCPS didn’t get the required school board approval for awarding contracts to vendors who were not the lowest bidders nor the most qualified based upon the bid evaluation results. Over $43 million for 32 contracts were not submitted to the school board for approval either. Their use of a facility project delivery method called Job Order Contracting (JOC) “did not follow the best practices for selecting pre-approved vendors for task orders.” JOC allows for the school system to quickly maintain, rehabilitate or construct buildings while upgrading mechanical systems. PGPCS started using JOC in 2012 and there have been over $95 million in contracts that have been awarded for 130 tasks.
Perhaps the most glaring of the recent audit’s findings was that PGPCS had not satisfactorily completed most of the tasks from a February 2014 audit where it was found deficient. Fourteen of the 23 necessary improvements remain unaddressed in the five years since.They include tightening internal controls over payroll and personal transactions, ensuring proper documentation, justifying spending on procurements and implementing cost-saving practices on its bus fleet.
The timing of the audit couldn’t have been worse for the embattled school system, who had it’s credibility scrutinized a week earlier after questions arose regarding physical conditions Parkdale High School in Hyattsville. Broadcast reports showed pictures of bathroom conditions that were described by one teacher as a “jail cell,” and video clips of mice in classrooms that were posted on social media.
In response to the 2019 audit, PGCPS Interim CEO Dr. Monica E. Goldson concurred with all 19 audit findings and promised “to work diligently to rectify the identified deficiencies.”
“As we implement these recommendations, we will continue to report quarterly (on our website) to update stakeholders on our progress,” Goldson wrote.
FOX 5 News D.C. reported the school district’s director of purchasing is no longer employed as of March 29.
This article originally appeared in The Afro.