Auditor presents quarterly report to school board

By Greg Oliver
Courtesy The Journal

EASLEY — The internal auditor for the School District of Pickens County recently told the board of trustees she will have completed at least one internal audit at all schools within the district by the end of the current academic year.

Melissa Bowman said the original 2014-15 audit plan she is working under includes the internal audit of pupil activities accounts at 11 schools — seven elementary schools, two middle schools and two high schools. She has completed two audits to date, at Daniel High School and Central Elementary.

“Both schools had minimum recommendations which were implemented and corrected immediately,” Bowman said, adding another audit was scheduled to begin last week and the remainder of schools planned for March, April and May.

The school district determined there was a need for an internal auditor as a result of the 2011 arrests of former Liberty High School principal Randy Gilstrap and secretary/bookkeeper Buea DeNard on multiple charges of fraud and embezzlement. In August of that year, the school board’s policy committee passed a draft for the new position, and Bowman was eventually selected to fill it.

Among Bowman’s responsibilities are examining financial transactions that occur in Pickens County schools — ranging from yearbook sales to check requests to credit card purchases. Bowman is also responsible for developing an audit plan at the start of the fiscal year in July and reports quarterly to the board at board meetings as to the status of her internal audits.

Bowman said she has also assisted the food services department in preparing for its annual USDA external audit by visiting schools, with the outside consultant hired by food services to conduct the initial review of the schools’ cafeterias.

“Going forward, I will be working more with the food services department in order to eliminate the need for an outside consultant, which will ultimately save the district the expense of the consultant’s fee,” Bowman said.

Bowman also staged a mock visit to prepare the Pickens County Career and Technology Center team for its state grant audit and an onsite visit from the state auditor. She also hosted four community meetings for the support organization workshops, including Edwards Middle, in which all support organization leaders and advisers were invited to learn more about the district’s policies regarding support organizations and to learn about how to identify and prevent theft.

Bowman said she also conducted an efficiency audit with the transportation department, making recommendations on how to increase the efficiency of office staff and job responsibilities. Those recommendations are now in effect with a review of the changes to take place in May.

The auditor also assisted Easley High School following the theft of cash from the school’s front office, which was not committed by a School District of Pickens County employee.

“Once the theft was discovered, I worked with the bookkeeper and principal to identify the breakdown in procedures that resulted in the theft,” Bowman said.

But the area in which Bowman said the largest majority of her time has been spent is on the implementation of the “My School Bucks” online payment system. The system includes pupil activities accounts to allow parents the opportunity to make payments for their students’ activities, such as field trips, yearbooks, club dues, afterschool care tuition and T-shirts.

“The finance department has written procedures for the posting of the online payments, and I have worked closely with finance to review these procedures and provide hands-on training for the bookkeepers,” Bowman said, adding that a total of $9,617,041 has been collected online since the system began.

This summer, Bowman said registration will be added to the “My School Bucks Stores,” allowing parents to pay their students’ registration fees with credit cards, debit cards and electronic checks.

School board member Alex Saitta suggested that school district superintendent Danny Merck invite Bowman to attend audit meetings.

“She could help determine ways of being efficient at saving money,” Saitta said.