District of Columbia:

Weaknesses in Personnel Records and Public Schools' Management Information and Controls

T-AIMD-95-170: Published: Jun 14, 1995. Publicly Released: Jun 14, 1995.

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Jeanette M. Franzel
(202) 512-9471
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GAO discussed the District of Columbia's financial condition, focusing on its: (1) effort to reduce the number of District personnel, while increasing the quality of personnel and payroll information; and (2) public school system (DCPS) expenditures, controls over non-resident students, and funding for the capital program. GAO noted that: (1) although District staff reductions have occurred since 1990, these reductions are impossible to quantify due to poor records and changing methods of calculating the number of District employees; (2) the District reports personnel data in a variety of ways, including the number of full-time equivalents (FTE), the number of personnel receiving paychecks, and full-time on board staff; (3) there is poor management information and a lack of effective internal controls regarding District personnel; (4) the data included in the District budget are inconsistent with both personnel and payroll records; (5) payroll records have numerous errors such as incorrect social security numbers and employee addresses; (6) the District's fiscal year (FY) 1996 budget calls for few additional staff reductions; (7) DCPS expenditures for FY 1994 totalled $741 million and the District's per pupil cost was about $9,200; (8) DCPS internal controls for personnel and payroll data are inadequate because personnel expenses and positions are created without authorization; (9) DCPS has poor information on both the number of students and identification on nonresident students; and (10) although DCPS needs at least $50 million in capital spending annually to correct inadequate facilities, planned capital spending through 2001 will be less than one-third of 1992 estimated capital needs.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: In another report (GAO/HEHS-97-161, August 21, 1997), GAO reported that fundamental weaknesses remain in the enrollment counting process and verification of student residency in the District. GAO found that in 15 schools there was still a very high level of noncompliance with procedures to verify student residency.

    Recommendation: The Superintendent of the District of Columbia Public Schools should implement systematic procedures at the school level to better verify student residency and then refer cases of nonresident students to DCPS headquarters officials to obtain reimbursement or take other actions.

    Agency Affected: District of Columbia: Public Schools

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: According to the District's Chief Financial Officer, as part of the process to implement a new Comprehensive Automated Personnel Payroll System, the District of Columbia Public Schools was required to review its position data, including positions and salary descriptions, and ensure that all positions were funded by the approved budget. Currently, the District has several system implementation projects ongoing this fiscal year in order to strengthen their controls over position descriptions and other personnel data as found necessary by GAO and the District's Inspector General. These system projects include a classification position description system, an online employee record system, and a human resources management system. According to the DC Office of Personnel, with the implementation of the online employee record as well as other data reporting tools, the District will have the ability to further audit data and correct deficiencies.

    Recommendation: The Mayor should direct District officials to ensure that position data included in the budget are consistent with actual personnel on-board and position and salary descriptions are accurate.

    Agency Affected: District of Columbia: Executive Office of the Mayor

  3. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: As part of the overall modernization of the personnel process and systems, and in response to previously identified problems, the District's Office of Personnel has attempted to tackle a number of personnel information issues. Specifically to address GAO recommendations regarding personnel data, the District performed a review of critical electronic data elements and compared the data to official personnel files. They identified and corrected discrepancies found in the employee personnel and payroll elements.

    Recommendation: The Mayor should direct District officials to undertake a major effort to correct and make complete personnel and payroll records to make sure that they indicate the employees' current status and history.

    Agency Affected: District of Columbia: Executive Office of the Mayor

  4. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: Procedures have been devised to ensure that student data are correct. A new Student Information System (SIS) has been implemented, and training sessions were held to ensure correct data in SIS. Schools were required to have accurate, current, and consistent data across all data sources, and meetings were held with all principals to discuss and reinforce accountability for accurate student data. Periodic edit reports are generated and reviewed to identify and correct data errors. Schools have been given very detailed guidelines and directives for membership reporting. Reminder notices are sent to schools on a regular basis to ensure that they are ever cognizant of the importance of accurate student data. As data are reviewed, directives are issued to individual principals to correct the SIS data. An internal audit of the membership will be conducted over the next 2 weeks, and a request for proposals is being issued to hire an external auditor to audit the official membership.

    Recommendation: The Superintendent of the District of Columbia Public Schools should implement procedures to ensure that data in the Student Information System are up-to-date, including periodically checking the database for duplicates and ensuring that all official student count data are promptly inputted into the database.

    Agency Affected: District of Columbia: Public Schools

  5. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: District IG and agency officials reported that as part of their efforts to implement a new personnel/payroll system known as the Comprehensive Automated Personnel Payroll System, they have cleaned up the FTE data because accurate FTE numbers were required. The District performed a review of critical data fields for the agencies and identified and corrected thousands of employee personnel and payroll elements, and the results of this analysis did identify numerous omissions of employee-related data, including records without job titles or grade levels. Since the analysis and initial data cleanup were completed, the District began another round of analysis in preparation for implementation of a new human resources management system. District officials also reported that they no longer use the supplemental and special pay employee categories as discussed in the GAO report.

    Recommendation: The Mayor should direct District officials to recalculate FTE data to make it more consistent with actual hours worked and to include both supplemental and special pay employees.

    Agency Affected: District of Columbia: Executive Office of the Mayor

  6. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: According to a memo prepared by the District's Chief Financial Officer, the Emergency Board of Trustees has developed a specific capital plan. The plan has been approved by the Control Board and the Congress.

    Recommendation: The Superintendent of the District of Columbia Public Schools should develop a capital projects plan that identifies specific projects and the timing of those projects that are needed to address the huge capital needs shortfall. Although the source of funds for these capital projects has not been identified, such a plan would provide valuable information as options are developed to improve the District's schools.

    Agency Affected: District of Columbia: Public Schools

 

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