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State education department in hot water over bad accounting

According to two external audits of the Mississippi Department of Education, accounting errors lead to mismanagement of funds and, subsequently, the chopping of many after-school programs in order to make up for those misspent funds.

At least nine items of mismanagement were uncovered by the independent audits, showing weaknesses in the MDE’s program administration and accounting practices during 2015-16.

State Superintendent Dr. Carey Wright said in a press release: “We have already taken significant actions to correct the problems cited in the audits, and are continuing to implement measures to ensure that all state and federal funds are managed with fidelity.” Dr. Wright concluded: “The MDE is committed to serving schools, families and taxpayers with integrity and takes seriously the trust and accountability expected of a state agency.”

Among the corrective actions the MDE has taken:

-Hired new chief operations officer with a strong financial background
-Started Accounting Department reorganization
-Formed partnership with the Mississippi Department of Finance and Administration (DFA) and contracted with an outside consultant to revise and align MDE Policies and –Procedures with the Mississippi Accountability System for Government Information and Collaboration (MAGIC)
-Developed executive-level approval measures and multi-level review and reconciliation process for all grant activity
-Provided grants management professional development to staff

The next steps in the correction action plan are:

-Hire new accounting director
-Hire a compliance manager
-Revise annual award documentation and notification to subrecipients to meet Uniform Grant Guidelines
-Write internal protocols for electronic document retention

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