According to a new article written by Jessica Williams at the Times Picayune, the LDOE has not performed an internal risk assessment since 2006, the same year the state was impacted by Katrina. They could also not show how they were auditing any programs internally.
The Louisiana Department of Education did not effectively audit its $5 billion operation in the 2014 fiscal year, state auditors said. According to a legislative audit released Monday (Dec. 1), state education officials had an internal audit plan for that year, but could not show that they had actually audited any programs.
This information jives with what I learned when I was investigating some payroll fraud claims by current and former employees of LDOE. When Paul Pastorek and then John White took over management of LDOE, they did not want anyone snooping in their business (legislatively required or not.) They allowed the audit department to dwindle to zero supervised employees (as employees left or retired they reallocated those audit positions to their own executive staff) and just a single audit manager responsible for auditing the disbursement of over 5 billion dollars annually as well as the oversight of all day to day operations of the 500-700 or so LDOE employees and their paper timesheets.
I tipped Daryl off to LDOE’s inability to perform even the most basic of audits, the lack of personnel, and the rampant abuse by John White’s executive staff of “working” from home (as reported by numerous time keeping staff), over the summer. We discussed the issues with proving payroll fraud with a complicit boss covering for them, as well as the possibly of performance audits.
I learned from internal staff that the auditors from Darryl’s team had stumbled across rampant disregard for rules and abuse and were aggressively auditing LDOE – for the first time in at least a decade. LDOE is responsible for one of the largest chunks of our 25 billion dollar annual budget (if not the largest) and for years had been escaping any oversight whatsoever. Most of their metrics for evaluating themselves are flawed, their conclusions are biased and often quite absurd non sequiturs – as pointed our recently by a professor from Harvard.
Are you happy with the current BESE rubberstampers that approves expenditures like this?
The report also highlights the misdeeds of an embattled eastern New Orleans non-profit director, as previously outlined in a June audit. Former Open World Family Services Inc. executive director Kim Cassell spent $307,500 in public education funding on travel, pet-grooming supplies and other personal expenses, state Legislative Auditor Daryl Purpera noted.
The state Education Department distributed nearly $1.6 million in federal grants that Cassell’s organization used to operate. She now faces three felony criminal charges.
The education department’s failure to effectively audit increases “the risk that errors and/or fraud could occur and remain undetected,” Purpera added. The department managed $5.1 billion in public revenue in 2014.
The audit reveals that 5.1 billion dollars of your tax dollars may be going anywhere as far as John White and 8 of the 11 BESE members may care. Daryl could not audit all of the programs, he was only able to audit the auditors and their audits (or lack thereof). Most fraud and abuse should be detected by the department long before Purpera’s team needs to get involved.
That means there are many more dog grooming expenditures out there yet to be discovered, and which probably never will be.
Special thanks to BESE member Jane Smith for putting me in contact with Darryl and fighting so valiantly for the cause she has recently joined. I am also very thankful for BESE member Lottie Bebee for being a fierce and tireless defender of our state and children and BESE member Carolyn Hill for fighting alongside them.