Financial Management:

Internal Control Weaknesses Leave Department of Education Vulnerable to Improper Payments

GAO-01-585T: Published: Apr 3, 2001. Publicly Released: Apr 3, 2001.

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This testimony discusses internal control weaknesses in the Department of Education's payment process. GAO identified internal control weaknesses that sharply increase Education's vulnerability to improper payments. GAO classified the weaknesses into the following four broad categories: (1) poor segregation of duties, (2) lack of supervisory review, (3) inadequate audit trails, and (4) inadequate computer systems' application controls. GAO found that some individuals at Education can control the entire payment process for some transactions. As a result, individuals could be using agency funds for personal expenses. GAO also found that Education has serious deficiencies in its process for reviewing and approving purchases made with government credit cards. During fiscal year 2000, Education employees made more than $8 million in purchases using their government purchase cards. Without proper review and approval of these expenditures, improper use of the government charge cards may go undetected. Regarding audit trails, Education lacks adequate control over changes made to sensitive information for certain types of payments, including contracting and third party drafts. Finally, weaknesses in Education's information systems controls increases the risk of unauthorized access or disruption in services and make Education's sensitive grant and loan data vulnerable to inadvertent or deliberate misuse.

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