Bethlehem school audit comes back clean

Officials of Bethlehem's Central School District are pleased with the state comptroller's recent audit of the district's financial practices.

The audit, covering the period between July of 2005 and December of 2006, examined several internal controls of varying financial operations, and no improprieties were found.

It's a good, clean audit, said Superintendent Les Loomis. "It affirms all of the sound, appropriate financial practices in the district."

Areas reviewed include segregation of duties over cash disbursement within the district along with the internal audit function. One area of criticism did focus on a Capital Region BOCES employee serving as the internal auditor.

In the report, the comptroller's office recommends the board end their internal audit relationship with Capital Region BOCES and replace the position with an internal auditor who meets the requirements of state education department guidelines.

"We are hard put to understand in any way how sharing a service to save taxpayers' money represents a conflict of interest," Loomis said, defending the practice.

The district shares the services of an internal auditor from BOCES because it is less expensive than hiring their own full-time internal auditor, and the position is eligible for BOCES aid. The comptroller's report indicated although no irregularities were found, the BOCES employee serving as the internal auditor would not be independent in performing the district's internal audit function.

"This current arrangement is likely to put the BOCES employee in the position of evaluating significant district services or programs that are provided to the district by Capital Region BOCES, the individual's employer," wrote the comptroller's office in their opinion.

In 2005-06, the district spent $3.6 million on services provided by the Capital Region BOCES.

"It puts the BOCES employee in the position of auditing its own employer," said Emily Desantis, spokeswoman for the comptroller.

Other Bethlehem Central School District officials disagreed with that assessment.

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