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Audit finds Utah mismanagement of $1M in education program, including extra compensation

Audit finds Utah mismanagement of $1M, including extra compensation  (Photo: KUTV)
Audit finds Utah mismanagement of $1M, including extra compensation (Photo: KUTV)
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(KUTV) The Utah State Board of Education mismanaged more than $1 million in federal funds for its Dual Language Immersion Program between July 2013 and January 2017, according to an audit released Monday.

The DLI Program, established in 2009 by the Utah State Legislature, aims to help students learn new language by teaching courses in the language. Languages taught include Spanish, English, Chinese, French, Portuguese, German and Russian.

While the DLI Program receives some funding from the Utah State Legislature, it also functions on federal grants, including Flagship Grants by Brigham Young University and STARTALK Grants by the National Security Agency.

Deputy Superintendent of Operations Utah State Board of Education Staff, Scott Jones, said money was mismanaged, mislabeled, and, in some cases, misused.

“It said for materials, yet it didn’t tie directly into what actual course it was. Was it materials purchased for a Chinese language course or a Spanish language course? It’s just that fine level of detail that was missing,” Jones said.

The Utah State Board of Education asked for the Office of the State Auditor to review the Dual Language Immersion program, which started in 2009, after concerns over how staff were using federal grant money.

“Taxpayers are so concerned with where is the money going, what is it being used for, and all that. And we want to make sure we’re clear on that,” Jones said. “Every dollar counts. Because it’s every dollar that needs to go to every student across the state to make a difference.”

The office of the state auditor looked at the DLI program manager's spending of those two funds, in particular, and released the following findings April 24:

  • USBE Mismanaged Federal Funds

Auditors found the State Board of Education mismanaged its federal funds because of both a lack of oversight and a lack of accountability. The audit pointed to a lack of clear communication and procedure, as well as a need to document expenses better.

  • USBE Failed to Provide Adequate Monitoring of DLI Program Activities

The audit also found the board failed to monitor and record its expenses properly, despite being instructed to do so by "multiple direct supervisors."

  • Improper Compensation to DLI Program Manager

Auditors recommend the DLI Program manager "return all improper compensations" received between July 2013 and January 2017, including a $1,839 MacBook Pro laptop purchased with money from a Flagship Grant.

  • Weaknesses Related to DLI Directors

The DLI program manager may have violated district and state policies by hiring the DLI directors, according to the audit. Some of those directors were also paid with federal grant money.

  • Unallowable Costs and Inadequate Documentation

Auditors found that the DLI program misused $1,360,206.

  • School Staff Improperly Paid with Federal Program Funds

The audit found that grants funded by the NSA "were improperly used to directly compensate elementary principals." Specifically, seven principals received extra compensation totaling $3,500 and eight secretaries received extra compensation totaling $3,900, all of which may be classified as improper payment.

Along with federal grants, the Utah State Legislature puts aside money for the program each year based on the number of qualifying schools. Schools who wish to participate in a DLI program submit an application to the State Board of Education, which then assigns funding.

State Auditor John Dougall found in some cases, federal monies were being used to pay for services that should have been approved and paid for by the state.

“Clearly, we are very troubled when it is that person’s responsibility to oversee these grants and then he directs people to circumvent different procurement policies, to circumvent hiring practices, to request payment and purchases directly on his behalf.”

Dougall continued, “We don’t have a problem if a principal or secretary needs to stay extra for a summer camp, but we do believe it would have been appropriate for the office, the State Board of Education, to directly pay that school district rather than circumvent and paying these individuals directly. But for him to direct a recipient of these funds to then pay him these funds is inappropriate, from our perspective.”

A federal expert will join a team of two internal employees as they continue to review records from the DLI program. They will design and implement new training practices to teach employees how to properly use federal grant money.

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Jones was not able to say if anyone would lose their job as a result of the audit.

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