After the Beaufort County School District's credit card program was put under intense scrutiny, a $63,000 audit examining the district's spending has found that no wrongdoing took place last year.
The school district first came under fire in spring 2017 when a group of concerned citizens started combing through the district’s credit card spending and found what they saw as questionable purchases. For months to follow, a citizen’s advocacy group known as CARE led the call for a forensic audit — an investigation specifically designed to uncover any wrongdoing, unlike a routine annual financial-statement audit, which the district had completed in November 2016.
In response to constituents' concerns, Beaufort County Council members chimed in as well and recommended that the Beaufort County Board of Education agree to a separate and external audit.
Superintendent Jeff Moss’ supporters on the board initially said that a more detailed audit was unnecessary and insulting to the administration.
In September, however, his supporters on the board voted to hire Reed & Associates CPAs to review the district's credit card program and purchases.
The company sampled 262 out of 28,000 transactions made from July 1, 2016 to June 30, 2017 to determine if they were properly authorized, made in accordance with school district policy and were not for personal purposes.
The results found that all the purchases were properly supported by documentation and made using the district's code. None of the purchases was unauthorized or made for personal reasons, according to a status report presented to the board on June 7.
Board member David Striebinger, who voted against the audit, said it was too limited. He had wanted a more comprehensive, multiyear audit that included spending on construction, he said.
"No matter how good an audit is, it's just a sampling," Striebinger said on June 8.
As a way to monitor the program more closely, board members now receive a copy of the spending transparency report with all of the district's credit card purchases at each monthly meeting.
"I think that's the solution to the issue, not an audit," Striebinger said. "Statistically, it's improbable that an audit is going to find one or two or three transactions that are questionable. So, it's up to the board to find that kind of stuff."
Joseph Dunkle, JoAnn Orischak and Christina Gwozdz, all members of the board's minority and vocal critics of superintendent Moss, also voted against the audit.
Moss said that the results prove that taxpayers’ funds are being used responsibly.
"I truly hope everyone — not just board members but everyone — reads those results carefully," Moss said during the June 7 board meeting. "As much accusation and innuendo that our finance department took by some individuals, this in my mind truly speaks to what we’ve said this entire time. Our internal control department is second to none."
The district had an annual budget of about $336 million during fiscal year 2017 and charged nearly $30 million to about 50 credit cards during that time period.