PLATTSBURGH — A State Comptroller's audit found that the Plattsburgh City School District's purchasing policies were deficient and not updated, and that some contracts and services were not procured in accordance with policy.
Superintendent of Schools Jay Lebrun told the Press-Republican that, overall, the district was pleased with the audit's results.
"The recommendations were constructive and limited in scope, and the audit process itself was completed much more quickly than we had anticipated."
The Comptroller's Office audited goods and services procured by the district between July 1, 2018 and Aug. 31, 2019.
Lebrun noted that the report included positive findings, such as how "all of the largest expenditures were procured in accordance with district policies and state requirements."
Those were 10 contracts that totaled about $1.1 million.
"We found that the District procured all 10 purchase and public works contracts in accordance with its purchasing policies and (State General Municipal Law)," the report read.
The audit found that the board annually re-adopted all existing policies, including the purchasing policies which had not been updated since at least March 2010.
"Consequently, the purchasing policies were outdated because they referred to the (State General Municipal Law) bidding threshold as in excess of $10,000, instead of the current threshold of in excess of $20,000," it said.
"This occurred because the GML was amended in 2010 after the Board had updated its policies."
Lebrun said it was interesting to note that some of the district's purchasing policies were more restrictive than required by law.
The Comptroller's Office also pointed to the fact that the purchasing policy did not specify which methods should be used when procuring public works contracts between $5,000 and $10,000 as evidence that the board was not updating and reviewing its policies.
A review of 15 purchase contracts totaling $76,378 found that 11, which totaled $56,624, were not obtained in accordance with the purchasing policy, the report said.
That would have included obtaining written quotes to show officials and employees had solicited competition for the purchases.
Additionally, district officials only used requests for proposals to procure professional services in excess of $10,000 — required, per policy — in one out of seven instances in the review.
Auditors wrote that these policies were not followed because Assistant Superintendent for Business David Baroody did not always ensure the contracts and services were procured in alliance with district policy.
The Comptroller's Office recommended that the board update purchasing policies and annually review and update them as appropriate.
They said district officials should "ensure employees procure goods and services not subject to the competitive bidding requirements, including professional services, in compliance with the purchasing policy."
In a letter dated Nov. 26, the district wrote to the Comptroller's office that it agreed with the audit findings and would implement corrective actions by July 1, 2020.
"Moving forward, the same care and depth of process which has been correctly used with larger purchases will also need to be applied to the smaller purchases identified in the report," Lebrun said.
"Keeping policies updated and reflective of changing laws requires periodic review, and an examination of our various policies — to ensure that these reflect current regulation — is definitely warranted."
He said that process has begun and involves assistance from the district's legal counsel and a policy-update service offered by the New York State School Boards Association.
Possibly later in the winter, Lebrun anticipates that Baroody will advance a handful of policy updates to the board of education.
"Thereafter, a more regular review of the district's many policies will be prudent, so as to ensure that local policies stay current with changing state regulations," he continued.
"As always, time spent with representatives of the State Comptroller's Office was productive, and these few recommendations are certainly appreciated."
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