Good question, especially because the school system currently receives 56.75% of county revenue. Auditing confirms if our tax dollars are spent efficiently, economically and legally, and how well public funds are protected from potential fraud or abuse.
Prince William County Schools has had an independent external annual audit of the system for many years. That independent annual audit checks that our accounting measures up to accepted accounting principles, that we obey all laws and that we have an adequate control structure to safeguard our assets. In other words this once a year audit, performed by an outside firm, checks to make sure the system as a whole isn’t cooking the books or using a red crayon and a steno pad to keep track of our money.
In 2010 I enthusiastically supported adding another layer of tax dollar protection with the creation of an internal auditor position which would directly report to the school board via the Internal Audit Committee (as opposed to the Superintendent), providing an extra layer of objectivity. The Board of County Supervisors had recently added an internal audit function for the county and encouraged the school system to do the same. Like the county, the School Board hired a full time Internal Auditor.
This new internal auditor is able to delve much closer into school system finances, independently and objectively. The internal auditor (IA) systematically looks at different schools, departments and programs and also looks into anything brought forward on the Waste, Fraud and Abuse hotline. Each year the Internal Audit Committee and the IA prepares an Audit Plan that decides what areas need to be looked at that year. The plan is risk based, so we are looking to see where the highest risks are for fraud, abuse, mistakes, etc. are and then we prioritize those areas for the first audit reviews.
Our current Audit Plan covers such areas as school Activity Fund accounts, booster clubs, procurement cards, School Facility Use agreements, and food service, among others. The IA also conducts several surprise audits each year just to check that our site based management system is working as it should. All the meeting agendas and Audit Plans are public and available on the school website. The auditor provides analysis and recommendations to the School Board as to where changes should be made or action taken.
I am proud that Prince William County was a leader in establishing this new layer of protection for tax payers. I will continue to look for ways to protect tax payer dollars as well as ways to be more efficient with our precious monetary resources. These are dollars that the tax payers have entrusted us with to use for the education of our county students and it is important that we make sure that is exactly where those tax dollars are going. I am always receptive to input from students, teachers, parents and taxpayers on ways the school system can improve financially.