Education A Washington Roundup

Audit Faults Oversight of Department Inventory

By Andrew Trotter — December 05, 2006 1 min read

More than 2,259 computers, among other items, were missing in a wall-to-wall inventory conducted to locate high-tech equipment belonging to the Department of Education in fiscal 2005.

But nearly all the 5,037 missing items, including computer printers, monitors, and scanners, were simply unaccounted for and were not lost or stolen, according to the final audit report that the department’s office of inspector general issued last week. All but 411 items were located in a subsequent “reconciliation” effort by the department, concludes the Nov. 29 report signed by Helen Lew, the assistant inspector general for audit services. Still, federal law requires that each executive agency maintain adequate inventory controls and an accountability system for property under its control, the report notes.

An inventory-services contractor surveyed the Education Department’s Washington headquarters and its 10 regional offices and failed to find thousands of pieces of technology out of the 30,000 items listed in department records.

The reasons for the discrepancies could include the location of equipment in areas to which the company was not given access, errors in the scanning of the bar codes affixed to items, and improper recordkeeping on equipment that had been transferred or “excessed.”

The audit report faults the department’s oversight of the inventory. The report’s findings and recommendations, as well as the response by the department’s financial managers, focus on improving the management of outside contractors that help with such inventories.

A version of this article appeared in the December 06, 2006 edition of Education Week