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Audit report: Wellesley School Department’s business office a mess

An audit of Wellesley Public Schools’ business office by an independent accounting firm has found that the $100K+ school lunch collections debacle that inspired the audit isn’t the only example of poor controls and policies by the office (access full report here). The review was conducted at the request of the town’s Audit Committee.

Powers & Sullivan’s review over the summer of the business office and 6 revenue programs (including middle school/high school sports and activities, performing arts and the high school Child Lab) did not uncover any “major system failures similar to the problems with the food service billings and collections.” However, the report ticks off a list of practices that need to be tightened up both by the business office and the departments and organizations it deals with.

The accounting firm concluded that too few people have access to some of the accounting information, that a mishmash of technology is used to manage revenue collection and tracking, and that too often checks are forwarded to the business office with insufficient information attached (often just informal notes). Based on questionnaires filled out by program directors and site visits by the accounting firm, those involved in collecting, tracking and processing monies acknowledged assorted shortcomings and in some cases pointed fingers. For example, the high school athletic director cited tardy payment of game officials, which has prompted “lots of calls and complaints.” The Child Lab Program, an early childhood development program for Wellesley High students, was subject to inconsistent tuition collection practices and had difficulties reconciling payment information via the school business office.

The School Department’s procedures for dealing with gifts got the highest grades from the auditing firm.

The accounting firm met early this month with the School Committee,  Audit Committee, superintendent and school business manager to discuss the findings, and urged immediate actions. The School Department indicated new online systems will address some of the problems and also aired plans to undertake a broader study of the school business office.

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