Gov. Charles W. Turnbull has ignored an Interior Department audit on the V.I. Education Department that included 11 major recommendations.
The initial deadline for the governor's response was Sept. 3. As there had been no response by that date, Interior's inspector general issued its report of the audit findings anyway. It was released Friday.
The audit report cites many areas of concern but zeroes in on special education.
In February, federal officials began withholding special education funds until the V.I. department addressed compliance issues. In July, after conducting on-site visits to special education classrooms in the territory, U.S. Department of Education officials said the facilities were so poor that strict conditions needed to be imposed as a prerequisite for further federal funding.
In September and October 1998, the audit report noted, V.I. Education officials used $39,500 – not including salaries – to conduct a retreat on St. John to develop a plan for the special education program.
"In our opinion, these funds could have been used in correcting the compliance deficiencies that put the program at risk of losing federal funds," the report said.
In another area of concern, the audit cited the school lunch program for not having adequate control of its inventory. Records were inaccurate and internal controls were weak, it said, leaving the potential for pilferage.
The report also stated that the department failed to comply with procurement procedures by not purchasing competitively and by purchasing without contracts.
Equipment valued at $1 million was not adequately safeguarded and accounted for, the report said. Equipment was stored in unlocked cages in warehouses and under leaky roofs.
In one instance on St. Croix, the report said, 11 items, including computer equipment and a digital camera, could not be found during a site inspection. Eventually the items were located.
"We found that the items were stored in a leaky closet at the school and that no one in authority was aware of the stored equipment, although an instructor informed us that he had been inquiring about the requisitioned items," the report said. "This situation was brought to the attention of the district superintendent, who directed a school official to use the equipment immediately."
Additionally, two "compliance alerts," which identify that a problem exists, were issued this year, one in January regarding a delay in implementing marine and aviation programs, and one in February to address the problem of the "untimely receipt of materials and equipment needed for vocational education."
Also, according to the audit, inadequate grant management in some areas put the department at risk of losing further federal funding due to noncompliance with grant program requirements. The department, it said, failed to establish procedures to verify correct codes for payroll costs, did not ensure that personnel files were complete and accurate, and did not enforce compliance with reporting requirements for the grant programs.
Although an audit has not been done for five years on the consolidated grant program, the report listed four related audits that have included remarks about Education. These indicated that the department was still having problems in all four areas identified – two having to do with accounting procedures, one with administration of the school lunch program and one relative to vendor payments.
The letter to the governor included with the audit report requested a response to the report by Friday, Nov. 12. No one could be reached by early Monday to determine if the governor responded to the next phase of the audit.


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