An external auditor gave Prince George’s County Public Schools a passing grade after looking at the system’s books recently. The audit’s findings were so positive, Prince George’s schools may receive a certificate of achievement for excellence in financial reporting.

“The clean audit will enhance our chances of receiving more grant dollars from state, local, and federal agencies,” said William Hite, Ph.D., PGCPS superintendent. “It should also go a long way in building the public’s confidence in our fiscal management and budget oversight. We are especially pleased that this represents the second consecutive year in which there were no audit findings.”

The school system has always maintained internal accounting controls to help maintain its budget. According to the schools, they are “designed to provide reasonable assurance that assets are properly safeguarded and accounted for, and reliable accounting information is used, to prepare financial statements in accordance with generally accepted accounting principles (GAAP).”

This comes as good news for a system, which is often questioned by outside sources about how it spends its money. As County Executive Jack Johnson provided billions of dollars to the school system, many wondered whether the county was spending its money unwisely.

“Well, the school system had a $100 million reserve and that money just got wasted,” June White Dillard, head of the Prince George’s County chapter of the NAACP, told the AFRO recently. “No one is really able to account to how that disappeared or was used up by the system.”

This has led to calls of bringing in another auditor to perform the audit or perhaps creating an inspector general position.

“This is a business worth over $1 billion,” David L. Cahn, co-chair of Citizens for an Elected Board, said. “An inspector general is entirely appropriate for an agency of that size. They generally pay their own way because of the savings that one might expect.”

Now, calls for an inspector general position have led to action. County Executive-elect Rushern Baker promised throughout his campaign to create the position to eliminate waste and corruption. Now that he has been elected, he plans on following through on the promise.

“Complete transparency and accountability is vital towards moving our county forward, creating new jobs, growing our economy and building a first rate education system,” Baker said in a statement. “The days of pay-to-play politics and the acceptance of government corruption and abuses are over. Elected officials and county employees are here to serve the people, not the other way around.”

Hite said the audit proves that the school system is on the right track, but he admits that there’s always room for improvement. “Even with this audit, we think it is important to further develop our processes, structures and controls,” Hite said. “We also intend to have even greater transparency so the public has a clear understanding that our budget supports our core work.”

PGCPS has applied to receive the Government Finance Officers Association of the United States and Canada Certificate of Achievement of Excellence in Financial Reporting for the fiscal year 2010. If the system wins, it’ll be the fifth year in a row in which it has received the honor.

George Barnette

Special to the AFRO