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Manatee School Board Votes to Abolish Internal Audit Committee


BRADENTON - With a 4-1 vote, the Manatee School Board, in an almost symbolic gesture of continuing to disassociate itself from its troubled recent past, abolished its Audit Committee - and the staff on that committee - thus deciding to transiton to a brand new one, which is slated to be in place by July 1.

Conley Weiss and Dr. Bill Vogel presented the board with recommendations about how to transition to a new team. Weiss, reviewing Circuit Court Clerk and County Comptroller, R.B. Shore's letter to Board Chair Karen Carpenter, noted that the role of the committee, per the school board's proposal, would be changed from an oversight position to one of managing the audit process.

"If you were to look at the guidelines for audit committees, you would find that all audit committees perform an oversight function, whether the audit is done internally (or externally, or as a combination of the two) ... but all audit committees work in an oversight model," said Weiss.

The model recommended by Weiss was for an audit comittee to have oversight over a group of auditors. "Those auditors would report to them, who would review their work." He also said that final authority for acceptance of the audit would rest with the superintendent and the board.

Further reviewing the letter, Weiss noted that Mr. Shore advised that the dollar amount assigned to perform the audit function - $150,000 - was arbitrary. Weiss explained that the committee picked that number "because they felt that with that amount, you could do the internal audit accounts, and do a thorough risk assessment." A smaller or larger dollar amount could be acceptable, Weiss said, who added that a full risk assessment would probably take 3 years to run.

The new Audit Committee would meet with the board at least quarterly. Per Shore's recommendation, the board would select a firm through an RFP to conduct internal account audits, and would also select an internal auditor through an RFP as well. Again, Weiss said that recommendations from the firm and the auditor would be brought to the board for final approval.

To the liking of Carpenter, Weiss said that the committee would be independent.

Both Dr. Vogel and Weiss cited St. John's County Schools, who uses an outside firm for their auditing, as a district that Manatee should model the organization of their auditors after. "The (county's) process has been in place for 10 years and functions well," said Weiss.

Vogel said that after abolishing the current auditing model in place and going for an RFP for internal auditing services, the board ought to run a newspaper advertisement to see if qualified people in the community have interest in serving on the board.

Board member Bob Gause, the lone dissenter in abolishing the internal audit committee, essentially said that he did not think it necessary to completely haul over the committee, suggesting that some of his colleagues might be letting negative feelings about last year's budgeting debacle, and that budget's lack of oversight, cloud their judgment.

Vice Chair and board member Julie Aranibar disagreed, saying, "To me , this isn't a personal issue ... we have the reports, (and) the system failed ... I do not believe that (auditing) can be in-house at this time."

After board member Barbara Harvey motioned to approve abolishment and Aranibar seconded, the board voted 4-1. Weiss said that he would have an RFP written up for the board by Wednesday.


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