August 4, 2009

District auditor criticized for "editorializing"

 Posted by Kathy Bushouse on August 4, 2009 05:35 PM

Several Broward School Board members criticized a district auditor for “editorializing” in a recent audit that found the district overpaid more than $765,000 for the repair of portable classrooms damaged by Hurricane Wilma.

The audit by Dave Rhodes, the district’s director of facilities audits, states that “there were clear signs of coercion and falsified documentation to facilitate the approvals and ultimately the recommendation to process payments to AshBritt, Inc. … Additionally, we believe the final documents submitted for payment were falsified and inflated.”

The audit states AshBritt didn’t do the work it billed for, and Texas-based contractor C&B Services overbilled for work it did on the classrooms and was not licensed to do the work it performed. The audit recommends the district demand a $765,608 refund from AshBritt.

AshBritt officials have denied any wrongdoing.

Though board members Stephanie Kraft and Bob Parks said they didn’t question the facts of the audit, they took exception to the words Rhodes used.

“When an auditor puts their personal feelings, their personal sentiments, into an audit, that does take away from the importance of that audit,” Parks said to Pat Reilly, the district’s chief auditor. “…People began to focus on the wording, the verbiage that was used in that report, and I think that distracted from the credibility and the value of that report.”

Board member Robin Bartleman asked Reilly whether there was a personality conflict. Reilly replied he didn’t think so.

“I think I try to implement independence and relying on substantial supporting documentation to make any statement,” Reilly said. “Sometimes when there’s a negative audit, there’s a tendency to say there’s a personality issue.”

The audit was not on the School Board’s agenda Tuesday. The discussion started while board members discussed school property audits and the audit department’s proposed audit plans for the next year.

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