The Wyandanch school district did not use a competitive process in hiring nine professionals who were paid more than $849,000, an audit by the state comptroller has found.
The audit, covering the period of July 1, 2015, to May 31, 2017, reviewed documentation of 13 professional service providers hired by the school board who were paid more than $1.4 million. Of those, auditors from Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli's office found that the board did not seek competition for procuring the services of nine providers at a total cost of $849,696.
Such service providers include architects, engineers, attorneys, financial advisers and other professionals, the report noted. Overall, the system had paid 48 such professionals more than $2.1 million during the time period reviewed.
“While the district is not legally required to competitively bid professional services, seeking competition is an effective way to ensure that the district procures services in the most prudent and economical manner,” said the report, which was released Friday.
Auditors recommended that the board consider revising its procurement policy to indicate when competitive offers should be sought and what kind of methods district officials should use to procure such services. The board also should require documentation of the actions, the audit said.
In response, board of education president Charlie Reed thanked auditors and said the district had reviewed all the report's findings.
“We will continue to do our utmost to assure that the Board of Education, the district’s management and staff comply with and implement the audit recommendations,” said Reed's letter, dated Aug. 8. The board will adopt and implement the recommendations "in the very near future," the letter said.
On Tuesday, Superintendent Mary Jones said the district will follow the steps that the comptroller's office advised.
“We are hoping that a report about perceived wastes by the Wyandanch Union Free School District does not taint the enormous progress the district has made in terms of student achievement,” she said in a statement.
The audit also recommended several ways for the district to tighten expenses regarding board travel and cellphone usage.
Among those, auditors wrote that the board should amend its travel policy to ensure that all travel days are approved by a board resolution and require that lodging costs do not exceed federal per-diem guidelines. Any exceptions to the policy should be documented, the audit said.
In addition, the report found that the district could have saved more than $3,500 if it used federal per-diem guidelines for travel. Those rates vary based on location and are set by the fiscal year.
Auditors recommended the district amend its policy on cellphone use, pointing out that more than $7,200 in cellphone expenses were “not properly approved, documented or necessary.” The audit said the district should require periodic reviews of cellphone plans and discontinue the practice of allowing equipment purchases outside of the normal purchasing process.