June 20, 2016

National org: Proposed audit changes at APS are a bad idea

Albuquerque Public Schools

A national auditing organization reached out to Albuquerque Public Schools on Tuesday and asked the district to rethink the restructuring of the auditing department.

Albuquerque Public Schools

Albuquerque Public Schools

David Jones, the city auditor of Seattle, penned the letter on behalf of the Association of Local Government Auditors (ALGA) asking APS Board President David Peercy to keep the district’s current internal audit processes in place. Jones also serves as the ALGA’s advocacy committee chair.

“We believe these changes significantly weaken the District’s audit functions and could limit the transparency of the District’s operations,” Jones wrote.

APS is seeking to eliminate the independence of its auditors and shift those responsibilities to other areas of the district.

In a phone interview, Jones said he became aware of APS’s plan to change who its auditors answer to after one of his committee members discovered reporting from NM Political Report and the Albuquerque Journal on the proposed changes.

In May, New Mexico State Auditor Tim Keller wrote a letter to APS questioning the district for moving its auditing duties to a department that would answer directly the district’s superintendent.

In the letter from Tuesday, Jones raised his own concerns about auditors that answer to the superintendent with an anecdote from another school district in Ohio.

“In Columbus several auditors had to contend with interference from the superintendent and were removed from their positions because of their attempts to report on what became a nationally known cheating scandal,” Jones wrote. “It required the school board’s intervention to allow the audit to proceed, which ultimately revealed the cheating.”

In Keller’s original letter, he expressed concern that his office may be forced to conduct independent audits that could cost APS more money in the ends. Jones told NM Political Report he agreed that cutting back on auditing services could cost taxpayers more.

“These problems or issues we often deal with end up costing a lot of money,” Jones said.

Besides asking APS school board President David Peercy to address the letter at the next board meeting, Jones also asked that the auditing function be restored to its original format.

“We encourage you to consider maintaining the Internal Audit Department and further strengthening its independence by having the Chief Audit Executive report directly to the Board of Education rather than exclusively to the District Superintendent,” Jones wrote.

A spokeswoman for APS confirmed that Superintendent Raquel Reedy received the letter, which she was copied on, but was not sure when she would issue a response.

NM Political Report also reached out to Peercy and left a message with a member of his office. We will add his comment when we receive it.