Friday, August 17, 2012

Time Lag Between Audit and Corrective Action

It has been over 7 years since I retired from Fairfax County Public Schools as the Director of Internal Audit. So I was quite surprised to see a recent article in the Washington Post with a headline Fairfax Schools to repay $1 million. The repayment to the Federal Government was the result of an audit that my office conducted in 2002 (more than 10 years ago) in which we uncovered grant documents with forged signatures. So here we are 10 years later and an audit that we worked on resulted in a repayment of funds. Internal Audit is rarely recognized for their efforts and even less so in school systems where the function is viewed as adding to the bottom line with little benefit to custodians of public funds. This audit highlighted a situation where the school district received funds fraudulently. So why did it take 10 years to return those funds to the U.S. Department of Education? It is hard for any organization to admit that funds from the Federal Government were received under fraudulent conditions and even harder to reach a decision on how to repay those funds, especially when local governments and school districts are under increasing budget pressures. The Department of Education was involved in the process from the time that we discovered the documents. School administration was apprised of the forged documents and that funds were received in violation of Federal law. It should not have taken 10 years for officials to admit the error and return the funds but it was the right thing to do.

So for all those auditors out there who rarely see corrective action on their findings and recommendations take heart that from the quote from The Best Exotic Marigold Hold - Everything will work out in the end and if it doesn't then it's not the end.