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Mr

Mr. Thomas D. Watkins, Jr.

    Superintendent of Public Instruction

    Michigan Department of Education

    608 West Allegan Street

    P.O. Box 30008

    Lansing, MI 48909

Dear Mr. Watkins:

This Final Audit Report (Control Number ED-OIG/A05B0038) presents the results of our audit of

    the Michigan Department of Education’s (MDE) administration of selected federal funds provided to charter schools for the period October 1, 1999, through September 30, 2000. This report incorporates the comments you provided in response to the draft audit report. The objective of our audit was to determine if charter schools in the State of Michigan expended federal funds for their intended purposes and according to applicable laws and regulations.

    AUDIT RESULTS

    For the period October 1, 1999, through September 30, 2000, the MDE allocated $5,611,803 in Public Charter Schools Program (PCSP) funds; $5,096,796 in Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 (ESEA), as amended, Title I, Part A (Title I), funds; and $454,480 in Individuals with Disabilities Education Act - Part B (IDEA Part B) funds to charter schools operating in the State

    of Michigan. The 10 charter schools selected for audit used and accounted for federal funds awarded by MDE in accordance with applicable federal laws and regulations. The 10 charter

    schools we audited maintained adequate documentation to support expenditures charged to the three federal programs. We selected these 10 charter schools as the best representation of Michigan charter schools as a whole. However, the results of our audit cannot be projected beyond the schools audited.

    All 10 schools that we audited operated on a July 1, 1999, through June 30, 2000, fiscal year and reported expenditures of federal funds for the same period. Representatives from each charter school and/or the educational service provider (ESP), hired by the charter school’s board, provided us with a list of expenditures charged to the three federal programs for that period. Our audit work demonstrated that the charter schools that hired an ESP generally relied on that entity to administer federal funds provided to the school. The ESP would receive guidance and direction from a publicly appointed school board who was ultimately responsible for the federal funds that the school received.

    We judgmentally selected a sample of expenditures charged to each program and traced them to supporting documentation such as vouchers, purchase orders, invoices, and canceled checks. We performed these tests to ensure that the service or item was provided to the school and related to the purpose of the program. We verified that the totals from the source documents agreed with the accounting records. We also gained a limited understanding of each school’s system of internal controls over the administration of federal funds. We concluded that all 10 schools had sufficient controls in place to provide reasonable, but not absolute, assurance that federal funds were being expended according to appropriate federal laws and regulations.

    Finally, we interviewed MDE personnel who provided us with information about their role in awarding, monitoring, and accounting for federal funds granted to charter schools. We concluded that MDE had controls in place to provide reasonable assurance that, during our audit period, federal funds were adequately supported and properly expended.

    OTHER MATTERS

    One charter school (of the 10 we audited) was unable to readily identify expenditures charged to the PCSP and Title I programs during the fiscal year ended June 30, 2000. Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Circular A-87, Attachment A (C) (1), describes general criteria for costs to be allowable under federal awards (in this case, the PCSP and Title I programs). According to this criterion, costs must be allocable to federal awards and adequately documented.

    The charter school had not implemented an accounting system that identified and tracked costs charged to federal programs as required by OMB Circular A-87. The charter school eventually provided supporting documentation for expenses associated with these two federal programs. After we brought this matter to their attention, officials from the school’s ESP agreed to work with an accounting firm to implement an accounting system that tracks costs by federal program. We provided MDE officials with information regarding this school.

    We concluded that this charter school was not indicative of charter schools in the State of Michigan. We recommend that MDE provide guidance and assistance to charter schools to ensure they implement accounting systems that track expenditures by federal program.

    In its August 8, 2002, response to our draft audit report, MDE stated it asked that the one charter school work closely with its accounting firm to ensure compliance with federal and state regulations. Included in MDE’s response was a letter from the accounting firm describing improvements in the school’s accounting system to better track federal expenditures. MDE also provided assurance that it will continue to work with its charter schools that receive federal funds to ensure their compliance with federal laws and regulations governing accounting for and tracking federal funds. We have included MDE’s response as an Attachment to this final report.

MDE’s actions indicate that it is monitoring the situation at the one charter school adequately. Its

    assurance to work with its charter schools to ensure compliance with federal laws and regulations satisfactorily addresses our recommendation above.

    2 Final Audit Report ED-OIG/A05B0038

    BACKGROUND

The PCSP was authorized in October 1994, under Title X, Part C of the ESEA, as amended (20

    U.S.C. Sections 8061-8067). In October 1998, the Charter School Expansion Act of 1998

    amended the program. The PCSP, which provides support for the planning, program design, and

    initial implementation of charter schools, is intended to enhance parent and student choices among

    public schools and give more students the opportunity to learn to challenging standards. Grants are

    awarded for a period of not more than three years, including not more than 18 months for planning

    and program design, and not more than two years for the initial implementation of a charter school.

    Allowable activities for the planning and implementation periods are defined in the law.

Title I, Part A, of the ESEA, as amended, (20 U.S.C, Chapter 70, Sections 6301 6514), provides

    funds for supplemental educational services for eligible public and private school children living in

    high-poverty areas. The Title I, Part A program provides formula grants through state educational

    agencies to local educational agencies (LEA) to assist low-achieving children meet challenging state

    curriculum and student performance standards in core academic subjects.

IDEA Part B, also known as the Grants to States Program, Section 611 (20 U.S.C. 1411-1419),

    provides funding for disabled children from the ages of 3 through 21. These funds help to ensure

    that all children with disabilities have available to them a free appropriate public education that

    emphasizes special education and related services designed to meet their unique needs and prepare

    them for employment and independent living.

There were a total of 192 charter schools approved to operate in the State of Michigan for the period

    October 1, 1999, through September 30, 2000. Only 146 schools received federal PCSP, Title I, or

    IDEA Part B program funding. According to MDE’s records, the 146 schools, in total, were

    allocated $5,611,803 in PCSP funds, $5,096,796 in Title I funds, and $454,480 in IDEA Part B

    funds.

    OBJECTIVE, SCOPE, AND METHODOLOGY

The objective of our audit was to determine if charter schools in the State of Michigan expended

    selected federal funds for their intended purposes and according to applicable laws and program

    regulations. Specifically, we identified the amounts of federal PCSP, Title I, and IDEA Part B

    funding that charter schools received and determined whether a sample of charter schools had

    implemented procedures to ensure adherence to applicable federal laws and program regulations or

    obtained waivers from such requirements. Our original audit period was October 1, 1999, through

    September 30, 2000. We expanded our audit period to the fiscal year October 1, 2000, through

    September 30, 2001, as necessary. We did not assess the academic performance of the charter

    schools audited.

We audited 10 charter schools in the State of Michigan. We randomly selected seven schools and

    judgmentally selected three. Initially, we randomly selected the schools based on the authorizing

    agency that issued the school its charter. We later selected schools based on whether the school

    used an ESP to perform administrative and financial duties for the school.

    3 Final Audit Report ED-OIG/A05B0038

To accomplish our objective, we reviewed

? federal laws, including the ESEA, as amended, for the PCSP grant fund and Title I Part A

    grant funds;

    ? the law covering special education funds, as specified under the Individuals with Disabilities

    Education Act;

    ? policies and procedures for the accounting of federal funds for these programs at the individual

    schools;

    ? accounting and payroll records, purchase orders, and cancelled checks for judgmentally selected

    transactions;

    ? State of Michigan charter school budget plans;

    ? individual school’s financial audit reports;

    ? audit working papers at independent accounting firms; and

    ? MDE federal fund performance and expenditures reports.

We also interviewed representatives from each school, its ESP, and, if applicable, its independent

    public accounting firm; officials of a major authorizing agency; and MDE officials.

We relied on computer-processed accounting data provided to us by each charter school or its ESP.

    We tested the data by comparing it to MDE’s records and tracing selected expenditures to source

    documents. The purpose of our tests was to determine the data’s suitability for use in meeting the

    audit objective. We concluded that the data, when used for its intended purposes, was sufficiently

    reliable to be used in meeting our audit objective.

We performed on-site field work at MDE’s administrative offices in Lansing, Michigan, and at 10

    charter schools. We started the school audits on December 4, 2001, and completed the last on-site

    charter school audit on March 25, 2002. We held a field exit discussion with MDE officials on

    May 13, 2002. Our audit was performed in accordance with government auditing standards

    appropriate to the scope described above.

    STATEMENT ON MANAGEMENT CONTROLS

As part of this audit, we did not assess the adequacy of MDE’s system of management controls

    applicable to its administration of federal funding as a whole, because this step was not necessary to

    achieve our audit objective. Instead, we gained an understanding of MDE’s role in awarding,

    monitoring, and accounting for federal funds granted to charter schools. We also determined

    whether individual charter schools had controls in place to ensure that federal funds were spent

    according to federal laws and regulation. Because of inherent limitations, an assessment made for

    the limited purpose described would not necessarily disclose all material weaknesses in

    management’s controls. However, nothing from the information that we obtained at MDE, or at

    the individual charter schools, demonstrated that the controls in place were not sufficient to ensure

    that federal funds were expended according to the applicable laws and regulations.

    4 Final Audit Report ED-OIG/A05B0038

    ADMINISTRATIVE MATTERS

Statements that managerial practices need improvements, as well as other conclusions and

    recommendations in this report, represent the opinions of the Office of Inspector General.

    Determinations of corrective action to be taken will be made by the appropriate Department of

    Education officals.

If you have any additional comments or information that you believe may have a bearing on the

    resolution of this audit, you should send them directly to the following Department of Education

    official, who will consider them before taking final Departmental action on the audit.

     Susan B. Neuman, Ed.D.

    Assistant Secretary for

    Elementary and Secondary Education

    U.S. Department of Education

     FB6-3W315

     400 Maryland Avenue, SW

     Washington, DC 20202

Office of Management and Budget Circular A-50 directs Federal agencies to expedite resolution of

    audits by initiating timely action on the findings and recommendations contained therein.

    Therefore, receipt of any additional comments within 30 days would be greatly appreciated.

In accordance with the Freedom of Information Act (5 U.S.C. ? 552), reports issued to the

    Department’s grantees and contractors are made available, if requested, to members of the press and

    general public to the extent information contained therein is not subject to exemptions in the Act.

If you have any questions, please call me at 312-886-6503.

     Sincerely,

     /s/

     Richard J. Dowd

     Regional Inspector General

     for Audit, Region V

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