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State comptroller audit suggests stricter enforcement of purchasing policies for North Colonie school district

State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli announced his office's completion of an audit of the North Colonie Central School District, and findings which include that district officials did not always enforce compliance when it came to filing quotes-both written and verbal-about what they were spending money on.

The audit covered the period of time between July 1, 2006 and November 13, 2007. Its intentions were to determine whether district officials were completing purchases appropriately and effectively in order to safeguard the district's assets, and whether the district's computerized accounting system was adequate.

According to audit results, district officials did comply with New York State law when it came to bidding practices. Superintendent of Schools Randy Ehrenberg said, It is our priority to ensure that taxpayer dollars are carefully tracked and spent appropriately to maximize the educational value to our students.

However, audit results also confirmed that in 11 out of 20 purchases, totaling $30, 660, the district did not complete written or verbal quotes.

"For example, district officials purchased five benches, at a cost of $1, 886 without the benefit of quotes," the comptroller said, "According to the purchasing policy, district officials should have obtained three written or verbal quotes."

Ehrenberg also said that while the audit was mostly positive, the district has already taken steps, and will continue to follow through with updating its policies regarding purchases that do not meet the state's "competitive bidding thresholds."

As far as the computer system, the audit found that district officials have not limited third-party access to the computer system, and that no disaster recovery plan is in place. "As a result, the district's computer system and data are subject to an increased risk of loss."

In a letter, written by North Colonie Central School District Board of Education President Joan Hart, Hart responded to the comptroller's audit results involving lack of purchase quotes as not depicting "a lack of obtaining competitive quotations," but more so a "lack of contemporaneous documentation." Hart said the district plans to review and revise their Purchasing Policy, which was last amended in 1998.

Hart also said that the district does have a disaster recovery plan in place for the district's computers and software, which includes storage of data in a fireproof vault at a location outside the main data center. She told the comptroller that the district would be looking into "the option of encrypting stored electronic mail filed."

For more on this story, check back at www.spotlightnews.com, or read the August 6 print edition of the Colonie Spotlight.

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