A kind parent from the district forwarded me an auditor’s questionnaire she had discovered while browsing another school district website. It happened to come from the very same auditors as Timberlane employs and was intended to be filled out by the auditor’s client, the school board.
Naturally, my first reaction was to send this questionnaire to our school board chairman and TRSB@Timberlane.net asking why I had never seen this questionnaire. To his credit, Mr. Bealo promptly replied: Nancy Steenson, our previous chairman, had no memory of it, but Rob Collins remembered it from his time as chairman. Mr. Bealo said previous chairmen have been filling this out on their own without consultation with the board and he intends to do the same – but because he is committed to transparency – he’ll let the board know after the fact.
Here is the questionnaire – from SAU 47.
You can see that this questionnaire is addressed to the ENTIRE school board. It also claims to be an “…integral part of our auditing process.” It asks probing questions with respect to suspected fraud, relationships that could give way to unethical practices and other important things the board should keep out an open eye.
Yet I can confirm the Timberlane School Board has not seen this in the last two years, and maybe never for all I know.
Let me list how very wrong this is.
- The auditor should have a direct relationship with the entire board – not a single unauthorized member;
- The questionnaire is the board’s opportunity to direct the auditor to examine issues board members may want examined;
- Failing to bring this to the entire board’s attention for their input is suppressing a vital and “integral” part of any audit;
- Knowing that the board is not giving meaningful feedback on the audit questionnaire or the audit itself, the auditors should be reaching out to the board in public session and not accepting proforma answers on a questionnaire that may (or may not) get submitted to them every year.
Our Business Administrator, George Stokinger, says he doesn’t see the completed questionnaire, doesn’t know if it is completed and doesn’t have a copy of it; therefore all our past questionnaires are not subject to Right to Know requests.
The auditor, a private company, is not subject to Right to Know requests.
The board defeated my motion at last Thursday’s meeting to obtain ten years of completed questionnaires from the auditor.
Why would the board have no curiosity about “an integral part” of our auditing process?
Do you have a sense that the board is working to prevent someone’s embarrassment instead of working for your best interests in seeing that your money is properly accounted for?
You should also know that prior to my insistence, the SAU board was not being told about or given the auditor’s reports for the annual SAU audits. I didn’t even know the SAU was audited until I stumbled on a policy saying it was required – and I’m on the SAU board!
Our school board and our SAU board have an irresponsible and cavalier attitude about our audits and have permitted our auditors to grow too close to the SAU rather than having their proper focus on and direction from the board.
The board has denied my multiple requests to have the auditor before the board to present their annual audit to us as is standard business practice. Not only that but the SAU has instructed the auditor to not respond to my inquiries. When the board found out that I had contacted the auditor privately, the policy committee under Mr. Bealo’s direction changed policy to sanction any company that gave confidential information to anyone. (I wasn’t obtaining confidential information but that was the best the policy committee could do to intimidate the auditor.) As if that wasn’t enough, the board has denied all my attempts to get discussion about our auditors on the agenda. I think they need to be replaced.
Audits are intended to protect the public purse. Why are your representatives so indifferent to their responsibilities with respect to the audit?
This surprising situation brings to mind another question: what other documents intended for the entire board are our chairman in the habit of signing without prior consultation or vote of the board?
P.S. Our audit for the year ending June 30, 2015 is not yet completed though by contract it is due in November. Last year it was completed 7 months late. Mr. Stokinger last year said that he was late getting information to the auditors which created the delay.