Harrisburg School District audit finds $5 million in questioned costs

HARRISBURG, PA -- A Pennsylvania Department of Education audit of the Harrisburg City School District turned up more than $5 million in potentially questionable costs over just a three year period.

Some of the lowlights from the report include overpayments to employees, former employees continuing to receive free health benefits, paying $903,000 for substitute teacher services that were never provided and a business office which failed to provide oversight and that was saddled with under-qualified management.

The audit, performed by Wessel & Company, found almost $2.6 million in potential questioned costs and another $2.4 million in unsupported expenditures.

Former Superintendent Dr. Sybil Knight-Burney was overpaid $19,208.40, according to the report. This was attributed to miscalculations in her yearly raises. The report also says Knight-Burney received ratings of 'exemplary' even though test scores and enrollment were decreasing and there was high turnover and key management positions left vacant. Another 32 employees who were overpaid at a likely cost of $100,000 annually.

The report states 132 terminated employees continued to receive health care benefits, costing the district over $800,000.

The district also paid vendors more than their board approved contracts. In a sampling of 47 such contracts, auditors discovered over payments in 16 of them, totaling more than $210,000. Transportation services were overpaid to the tune of $40,000.

During the period of the audit, the district did not have a  chief financial officer or business manager. Those duties fell to Acting Business Manager Bilal Hasan. Auditors say Hasan lacked the necessary knowledge- he'd only had two entry-level accounting courses. Rather than fill the need, the district changed the job description to remove the qualifications Hasan lacked.

The audit's most significant findings are summarized in the report as:

-Hiring and retaining top-level management that display a poor ‘Tone at the Top’ for District employees.

-A lack of oversight and controls related to cash disbursements and procurement procedures.

-Retaining an Acting Business Manager that lacks the qualifications, skills, knowledge or
experience to oversee the Business Office.

-Excessive use and lack of internal controls to support monitoring activities of independent contractors

-Insufficient internal control activities to comply with Board approved policies, laws and regulations.

-Inconsistent communication and sharing of information between departments.

The report's findings findings and recommendations have been discussed with the Pennsylvania Department of Education and Harrisburg City School District’s Receiver. On July 2, the district announced a 3-year partnership with the Montgomery  County Intermediate Unit #23. But just 24 hours into the partnership, it was discovered that important financial records for the district were missing.

At that press conference, John George, Financial Recovery Partnership Director, said "Right now, we have no confidence, or little confidence, in any of the dollar figures that have been available to us. So, that's not a good position to be in. When you don't know how much money you have, nor do you know what your expenses are, it's kind of hard to do anything else."

You can read the audit by clicking the link below:

Harrisburg City SD - AUP and Consulting Report 2016-2018

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