Friday, November 30, 2012

You Don't Have to Eat the Whole Egg... know it's rotten

That pretty much sums up the KPMG, on-the-net, off-the-net, draft audit report on the financial shenanigans down at DeKalb County Schools.

Many folks are questioning the particulars, often focusing on the 150 central office positions the Board demanded be eliminated to bring the budget under some semblance of control. Didn't happen and folks are upset. As well they should be.

However when one takes a step back and examines the situation a bit more philosophically, one can only conclude that "upset" is woefully inadequate to address this situation.

The School System has established a convoluted network of bank accounts that would do a Mafia money laundering operation proud. No wonder some prosecutors are more than just whispering "RICO". While all the money comes into one account, and goes out through one other account, once in the system money bounces around like a ball in pachinko machine with the Administration explaining it away as "we'll reconcile it later". "Tomorrow is another day" is a great line from a great movie but it really is no way to run a billion dollar business.

The System itself is organized along the lines of a terrorist organization with cells that may know something about their little bit of the puzzle but are kept woefully ignorant of nearby, related operations. In true public education fashion, when quizzed about process and procedure few employees appeared to be singing from the same sheet of music and many had begun exploring the financial equivalent of improvisational jazz.

Other things are difficult to explain as anything but deliberate means to achieve a nefarious goal. It isn't just the "bank account du jour" but the fact that System employs a bespoke account coding system that is inconsistent with the State coding requiring error prone manual processing in support of grant applications and reporting. Not that the State does much in the way of an audit. After all they're just passing around Federal funds. Furthermore this coding system is intentionally crippled in that it does not provide a unique code for each employee's position in the system. This makes it nigh on impossible to verify whether or not the School System had actually done what the Board directed.

The public school system is fundamentally broken and while this audit attests to that focusing on the particulars makes it difficult to see the underlying problem or begin to craft a solution.