published Tuesday, December 3rd, 2013

Audit says $48 million in equipment missing in Shelby County Schools

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — An outside audit ordered by the Shelby County Schools board shows that $48.4 million in school equipment is missing or unaccounted for in the district.

The Commercial Appeal reports that the auditor, Maryland-based ProBar, was unable to account for more than 54,270 pieces of equipment, including laptop computers, hard drives, tools and driver training cars.

More than 44,000 pieces of equipment from a total of 189,000 pieces, or 23 percent, were missing from legacy Memphis City Schools, while 10,200 pieces from a total of 56,290 pieces — 18 percent — were missing from the former Shelby County Schools system. The two districts merged July 1, forming a district with 150,000 students.

Board member David Pickler said the equipment was accounted for on June 30 by the district's internal auditing department.

ProBar associate Courtney Jennings says many large districts have 20 percent loss rate.

"To have computers and every service and function that goes with a school district to be literally moving across town as we were inventorying, I was happy with 80 percent," Jennings said.

Pickler requested it after seeing "questionable practices" of how school inventory was maintained and counted.

The report distributed to board members did not include breakdowns of all that is missing. Pickler said the list he has seen is 17,000 pages long.

ProBar found items had been shipped to their final location in the district without bar codes or being on a master equipment list.

District auditor Melvin Burgess has 30 days to bring recommendations to fix the problems. Those appear to include lax controls over shipping and receiving from district warehouses, improperly inventoried equipment and, in some cases, situations where principals have not complied properly with annual equipment reports.

Board chairman Kevin Woods suggested Burgess use the audit as grounds for requesting technology to improve inventory processes.

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