An investigation of performance vs. compliance audits in the Pennsylvania public school system
Compliance audits are required because school districts receive substantial money from the state and federal governments. These grants or subsidies are given with strings attached. Certain requirements and criteria have to be met for school districts to receive the money. Compliance audits are conducted by the Pennsylvania Auditor's General Office and also by the local auditors. Also, the federal government can send auditors to the district.
Local auditors are hired by the districts to do the Single Audit for the federal government. Also, the local auditor's reports are used when districts apply for bonds for construction or whenever money is borrowed. These reviews help to ensure the board members and the public that the funds are being spent properly according to laws and regulations.
Auditor General Robert P. Casey, Jr. intends to expand the scope of the compliance audit to allow the department to perform more performance reviews or audits for school districts. The goal of these performance reviews will be to better identify how much money is getting into the classroom for teaching and learning.
The performance review will be a new path in school district financial management which will enable districts to meet their goal of directing more tax dollars to be spent in the classroom and to educate children.
This is a new initiative and a new idea for school districts. It is not mandatory. It is being completed on a volunteer basis.
Education leaders have been encouraged to adopt successful practices from the world of business and industry to improve the efficiency of school district. The use of a performance audit may help to identify the weak and the good areas of the management of a school district. Based on examples of successful reorganization and downsizing in the business world, schools are being asked to do more with less. To ignore this trend could lead to declining public support and increased interest in voucher-driven school choice.
Some of the areas of the district reviewed by the performance audit team were transportation, personnel, cash management, polices and planning, and cafeteria operations. The recommendations by the performance team should be reviewed by the school board and administration. It is the final decision of the board on the operation of the district. The board chooses its leadership in the hiring of the superintendent. Board structure changes with each election. With the change of the board, the operation of the district may change.
A taxpayers group may like the recommendations of the performance audit team but may be totally against the expenditures to enforce the changes.
Many times a person has an excellent idea; but, there are so many other factors that have to be considered to incorporate these ideas.
Districts can take the time to review the performance audits that have been completed and learn from the recommendations.
Until the performance audit becomes a mandatory requirement to receive a subsidy, it will not become a part of the yearly audit.
0617: Public administration