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Timeline for state performance audit of Howard schools pushes into 2020

Howard County Executive Calvin Ball announced Tuesday the beginning of the request for proposals stage for the expected state performance audit of the school system.

“I proposed a performance audit of our school system, conducted independently by the Maryland State Department of Education, to provide a full picture of our expenditures and help inform the best financial path forward,” Ball said in a statement Tuesday.

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Ball said he is thankful for the state’s support in the RFP development process. Audit proposals can be submitted until Jan. 24.

The Maryland Department of Budget and Management began the RFP process for the audit Dec. 13, according to a county news release.

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Ball proposed the audit in June, approximately two weeks after the school board approved its fiscal 2020 budgets.

The audit will look into the school system’s health and dental fund, budgeting and actual expenditure variance, personnel cost development, and procurement, analyzing the 77-school district’s sole-source contracting and special education contracting.

“The county executive’s office has been working diligently with MSDE, with a sense of urgency, since the legislation was passed by the Council,” Scott Peterson, a Ball spokesman, said in an email Tuesday.

Peterson said the “process is complex” because it involves county government and the school system.

With a capped cost of $250,000, the county will pay for the audit. The cost is not expected to exceed the cap with the RFP process, according to Peterson.

In July, the timeline of the audit was said to take six to seven months, according to the county’s legislative coordinator.

“Every effort will be made to finish this as soon as possible, kind of knowing that the budget process starts in December,” Jennifer Sager, the county’s legislative coordinator, said in July.

When asked Tuesday what the expected timeline to complete the audit is, Peterson said in an email, “The timeline is hard to predict, depending on state procurement process, bidding results and contracted consultants’ evaluation of work needs. It is our hope that this process will move with all deliberate speed.”

As defined by the state’s Office of Legislative Audits, the purpose of a performance audit “is to evaluate whether an agency or program is operating in an economic, efficient and effective manner or to determine whether desired program results have been achieved.”

In October, the school system’s annual internal audit was completed, resulting in an adverse opinion due to the health care deficit not being paid down.

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