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Pennsylvania Auditor General Eugene DePasquale reported on September 12 that a performance audit found the Northern Lebanon School District in significant, but not complete, compliance with state requirements.

The audit looked at district operations from July 1, 2014 through July 30, 2018, and concluded “that the District complied, in all significant respects, with certain relevant state laws, regulations, contracts, and administrative procedures, except for two findings.”

According to the report, “the district inaccurately reported student transportation data to the state Department of Education, which resulted in an overpayment to the district of $87,763.”

In addition, DePasquale said the district “failed to ensure that its contracted bus drivers were properly qualified and cleared to transport students.”

The report does not contain any finding of intentional misconduct, nor does it say that students were placed at risk.

The transportation reimbursement overpayment “was due to the District incorrectly reporting the daily miles traveled for five vehicles used to transport students home from after school activities during the 2015-16 and 2017-18 school years.”

According to the report, the district attributes the error to a mishandling of mileage data given to it by the outside school bus company it contracts with. In response to this error coming to light, it has hired a Supervisor of Transportation and made changes to its computer procedures.

The Auditor General’s office has approved those remedial measures.

The overpayment has been reported to the Department of Education and the Auditor General anticipates that it will be corrected by a reduction of future payments to the district.

The audit’s second finding was that “[t]he District did not maintain or review all the documentation required to ensure compliance with bus drivers’ qualifications and clearances as mandated by law, its associated regulations, [Pennsylvania Department of Education] guidance, and the District’s own policies.”

The district contracts with an outside firm for bus services, and that firm in turn sub-contracts with drivers. The report says that the primary contractor received inaccurate and incomplete driver qualification information from its sub-contractor, and that the district should have discovered it.

The result was that the district was not aware of exactly who was driving students and whether all drivers met all legal requirements.

The audit does not find that any unqualified drivers actually transported students.

As with the overpayment issue, the Auditor General found that the district is complying with all suggested changes, stating “[w]e are pleased that the District intends to make a concerted effort to improve its monitoring of bus driver qualifications and to make needed updates to board policy.”

In a telephone interview, the NLSD Director of Business Affairs, Leanne Martin, confirmed the audit results and that NLSD is in the process of implementing all of the suggested changes and improvements.

As to school bus driver clearances, Martin said “it was all documented, and all the drivers that the auditors did pull had the correct clearances. It was more a deficiency in our documentation process. [The records] were housed in a school building, but not in our office.”

As to the overpayment by the Department of Education, Martin pointed out that “we’re paying it back, without interest or penalty, through a reduction in future payments.” She pointed out that the district had “absolutely not” lost any taxpayer money because of the overpayment.

The Auditor General did not announce audits of any other Lebanon County school districts.

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Chris Coyle writes primarily on government, the courts, and business. He retired as an attorney at the end of 2018, after concentrating for nearly four decades on civil and criminal litigation and trials. A career highlight was successfully defending a retired Pennsylvania state trooper who was accused,...


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