Schools: Not hiding accounts payable info
At recent School Board meetings, some residents have voiced concerns with how the district is making accounts payable information available to the public.
But school officials maintain that they are doing their best to make sure that the public has access to all account records and that many checks and balances are in place to make sure the district’s money is being spent appropriately.
One of the most prevalent complaints during the meetings has been that the accounts payable, which are published online and were previously published in the newspaper, do not include specific information on what certain funds are used for.
Julie Mire, a parent of St. Charles Parish public schools students, has repeatedly spoken out during the meetings asking the board members what specific funds are used for.
Mire has frequently mentioned that in years past more detailed information has been made available in the accounts payable reports printed in the newspaper, but that the more in-depth information was taken out of the report last year.
Milton Allemand Jr., whose children also attended public schools in the parish and who recently ran for the School Board seat in District 1, spoke up during the March board meeting and asked the board to be more transparent with the accounts payable information.
“Upon reviewing the monthly accounts payable I am unable to decipher what any of the payments are actually for,” Allemand said during the meeting.
Rochelle Cancienne-Touchard, public information director for the school district, said that the district continues to make a strong effort to make accounts payable information available to the public.
In addition to accounts payable information being listed on the school’s Web site, anyone can go to the central office in Luling and request any of the invoices for purchases made by the school district.
Cancienne-Touchard said that the column in the accounts payable report that listed “accounts title” is no longer included in the general report because of a change in the software that the district uses to generate the reports. That is the only thing on the report that has changed in the past year, but that information and more can still be obtained by the public.
In order to request specific information about certain charges in the accounts payable, anyone can go to the central office on River Road in Luling during normal business hours and request a copy of any invoice they want. The district then has 72 hours to comply with that request.
“Anyone can come in and request invoices if they have questions in regards to what they see in accounts payable,” Cancienne-Touchard said.
Some parishioners have also spoken during the board meeting questioning the need of a police officer’s presence when they request invoices at the central office. Cancienne-Touchard said that the officer is there to ensure the safety of the records.
“Documents have been taken from our facility before and to ensure that those documents are readily available if anyone were to come in…an officer helps us to do that,” she said. “Also, some requests are made in a very harassing manner to our employees and having an officer helps us to maintain decorum in our facility.
“The officer has had to warn a requester that she was disturbing the peace and that if she persisted she would be arrested.”
Cancienne-Touchard added that audits have been done on the district’s accounts payable by internal auditors, legislative auditors, the Attorney General and the state Board of Ethics and that no one has found any inconsistencies or inappropriate usages in the account records.
In January, Kathleen Zuniga, with Deloitte and Touche LLC, presented the results from the most recent audit on the School Board’s finances.
“I serve a lot of governmental entities…and this school board is a pleasure to serve,” Zuniga said. “The books are clean…I personally, as an auditor, have a responsibility to detect fraud…I have not found any exceptions with respect to any potential allegations and haven’t come across any frauds.”
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