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NYS Comptroller: WHSD Didn’t Seek Competitive Bids

Three Village Times News

Contracts Awarded Without Seeking Competition

The Office of the New York State Comptroller completed an audit of the West Hempstead School District and found that the district did not solicit competitive proposals prior to hiring several service providers.

According to the audit, the district paid approximately 64 professional service providers over $2.5 million from July 2007 through September 2008, the period of time the audit covered. The Comptroller’s Office tested 14 professional service providers, including seven vendors who provide behavior intervention and/or therapy services, two vendors who provide legal services, two vendors who provide auditing services and vendors who provide tutoring and architectural services and medical services. Of the 14 providers, the district did not solicit competitive proposals prior to selecting 11 of the providers who were paid a total of $951,967, according to the audit report.

The school district does not have a policy in place that requires school officials to solicit competition before awarding contracts for professional services and continues to use the same professionals year after year, the audit report stated.

The Comptroller’s Office recommends that the district implement a policy to award contracts for professional services only after soliciting competition. One way to accomplish that would be through a Request for Proposal or RFP process whereby service providers bid on services to help ensure the district is getting the best value possible.

“By not seeking competitive proposals, the district cannot be assured it is receiving the desired professional services at the lowest possible price,” the audit report stated.

The audit also found that the board of education inappropriately appointed an independent contractor as district treasurer and did not properly segregate her duties. The treasurer was therefore responsible for all cash receipts and disbursement duties. “Concentrating key duties with one individual with little or no oversight weakens internal controls and significantly increases the risk that errors and/or irregularities might occur and go undetected,” the audit report stated.

In a letter from West Hempstead School Superintendent John Hogan and Board of Education President Pamela Lotito, it was stated that all of the areas but one the examiners studied during the audit period had been improved including appointing the treasurer as a school officer and classifying the treasurer as an employee.

The one area that hasn’t been improved is the method by which the district secures professional services. Hogan’s and Lotito’s letter said district administration is developing a revised policy for the board of education to consider.

In addition, the superintendent’s and board president’s letter stated, “The West Hempstead School District is pleased that the examiners from the Office of the State Comptroller did not find any evidence of inappropriate payments or violations of school policies in their examination.”