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Audit of APS finds ex-worker paid for 8 months after leaving

Copyright © 2016 Albuquerque Journal

The 2015 state audit of Albuquerque Public Schools reveals that a former employee continued to receive a salary for eight months after resigning – collecting $11,901 after leaving APS.

It is the second case in two years of thousands of dollars being improperly paid to an APS employee.

The state audit that covered fiscal year 2014 included a finding of roughly $60,000 in overpayment to a current employee over the course of five years.

Sunalei Stewart, chief of staff for the Office of the State Auditor, said payment issues at this level are not common.

“Over- and underpayments do occur, but they should be caught and corrected promptly,” he said. “It is rare to see overpayments of this amount, especially in back-to-back audits.”

In the case included in the 2015 audit, publicly released Dec. 28, the employee was paid through a special education grant. The employee left the district at the beginning of the school year, but APS human resources was not notified, according to the audit.

APS’ payroll department picked up the overpayment in a review, and the payments stopped. But the audit says that the grant department was not told and an entry to remove the expense from the grant was not made until the external auditors pointed it out.

The auditors recommended that APS establish better controls for reporting when an employee leaves.

APS responds in the audit that administrators are evaluating software that requires employees to log in from their work site, which can generate a report confirming whether they have been working.

The overpayment caught in the 2014 audit of $60,000 overpaid to a Title I employee was caused by a record analyst entering the wrong pay rate when the employee was hired.

APS will be paid back in both cases, according to Tami Coleman, interim chief finance officer. She said the employee who owes $60,000 has started paying it back.

Problems with APS’ payroll system were also documented in its 2012 state audit, which said the district had a “significant deficiency” and noted a “lack of effective internal controls” on some aspects of payroll.

The fiscal year 2015 audit lists five other findings about APS, including:

• Former Deputy Superintendent Jason Martinez dodged a mandatory background check because administrators did not follow district policy. (See accompanying story.)

• APS transferred title for 19 buses to an external bus company, but the change was not brought to the Board of Education for needed approval until roughly eight months later.

• A disbursement of about $1 million to a single vendor was broken up into 17 different invoices. This shielded the disbursement from board scrutiny because no single invoice exceeded $250,000 – the threshold for a board vote.

Coleman said she appreciates the audits because they give the district guidance to perform better.

“There always will be areas in need of improvement,” she said. “We have a lot of people working here and people make mistakes.”

Coleman noted that APS has reduced its number of audit findings dramatically over the past decade.