New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli in January. On Thursday,...

New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli in January. On Thursday, he said school district officials need to ensure the tech devices are tracked and protected "so taxpayers know their money isn't being squandered." Credit: Howard Simmons

A state comptroller's office audit has criticized 20 school districts, including four on Long Island, for failing to properly keep track of laptops, monitors and other IT equipment, subjecting them to potential theft and loss.

The audit released Thursday said the school districts — including Freeport, Kings Park, East Quogue and Manhasset — had not consistently kept records or established adequate controls to safeguard the equipment.

The audit was performed from July 1, 2019 to March 31, 2022, with some districts being observed for several additional months. It was a period when the COVID-19 pandemic was taking hold, forcing districts to ramp up their number of tablets and other IT equipment to accommodate remote learning.

"This required spending significant money on IT assets," Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli said in a statement. "District officials need to ensure these devices are tracked and protected so taxpayers know their money isn't being squandered."

None of the 20 audited districts had implemented procedures for properly tracking IT inventory, the audit said. 

In Freeport, state auditors reviewed the district's ability to locate and inventory 60 pieces of IT equipment, and found that officials could not account for 26 of them, or 43%. Either the district could not find them, or had not inventoried them, or both, the audit said.

Responding to the audit, Freeport Superintendent Kishore Kuncham said in an interview that several of the missing items were old and needed to be removed from the inventory. He said the district has since installed a new system to track IT.

In Manhasset, the auditors checked on 60 items and found six could not be located and six had not been inventoried, meaning that a total of 20% could not be accounted for. 

Manhasset Superintendent Gaurav Passi, in a written response to auditors, noted that the audit came as the district was scrambling to increase its technology due to the pandemic, which presented a "record-keeping challenge." Also, during that time the district was the target of a ransomware attack that strained IT operations and staff, he said.

"As a district, we continually strive to improve our practices, procedures and methods to safeguard taxpayer funds appropriately," Passi said. "Steps have been taken to date regarding our investment in IT assets."

In East Quogue, auditors found the district had not properly accounted for six, or 20%, of the 30 pieces of IT equipment. All 30 were located, but six had not been inventoried, the audit said. 

Interim Superintendent Kelly Fallon responded that the district plans to prepare a policy specific to handling IT equipment, and perform weekly inspections of areas where IT is housed to ensure its safety and security.

The audit of the Kings Park school district, which checked 60 pieces of equipment, determined that two could not be located and three had not been inventoried, meaning a total of 8% had not been properly accounted for.

Superintendent Timothy Eagen said he disagreed with the auditors' characterization that five devices were not properly accounted for.

"For example, two of the Chromebooks were known to be with students in their respective homes [and] we were able to retrieve the devices in the early fall once school was back in session," he said.

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