Selma City Schools audit report released

Published 9:51 pm Thursday, February 19, 2009

The Selma City School Board is making changes based on an audit performed by the Alabama Department of Examiners of Public Accounts.

The audit found 38 discrepancies during the 2006-2007 fiscal year.

The discrepancies occurred before Superintendent Dr. Austin Obasohan was hired in July. However, Obasohan said his administration would accept the responsibility to take corrective action to strengthen the public school system.

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“We must correct those practices,” Obasohan said. “We have to remain fiscally sound and strong if we are going to be a strong school system.”

Among the findings of the audit: cash was understated by $114,957.95 in the general fund and overstated by $30,734.02 in the federal account; numerous errors relating to athletic gate receipts at Selma High School; schools paid vendors without adequate supporting documentation; and the board used federal funds from The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act to reimburse teachers not involved with special education.

Public examiners met with the board prior to releasing the findings to the public. The board and the public can voice their concerns to the examiners at the March 12 board meeting at 6 p.m. at Pickard Auditorium.

School board president Barbara Stapp-Hiouas knew there would be discrepancies, but she said the number of findings in the report surprised her. Stapp-Hiouas said the board is currently addressing the findings.

“We’ve already begun to centralize all of the accounting and put internal controls into place,” she said.

Obasohan said these measures would ensure everyone at the central office knows and adheres to policies. Obasohan said transparency was the first step. He has promised this since he accepted the position. Obasohan holds weekly meetings with central office employees to discuss financial issues.

“When the money belongs to the children, then you have to treat it seriously,” Obasohan said. ”

It all boils down to fiscal responsibility, he said.

“You cannot run a school system when you’re funds are not properly managed,” Obasohan said.

School board member Debra Reeves-Howard said she has pushed for a public examination of the school board for quite a while. Reeves-Howard said the report would shed some light on the problems and encourage the public to hold the board accountable.

“If things keep running as is, we will not have a school system,” she said. “Our school system has been running on auto.”