GDOE hopes to remove 'high-risk' status by summer but auditors found some issues

GDOE: The Guam Department of Education Headquarters building as seen in August 2020 in Tiyan. David Castro/The Guam Daily Post

The Guam Department of Education is celebrating its eighth consecutive clean audit.

GDOE Superintendent Jon Fernandez said the department has come a long way from being deemed not auditable 20 years ago.

“We are very proud to report our eighth consecutive year of a clean audit on both our financial statements as well as our single audit, which measures our performance in regards to compliance with federal programs,” Fernandez said.

GDOE has worked hard over the past decade to sustain operational improvements and strong internal controls as it tries to convince the U.S. Department of Education it no longer is a high-risk recipient of federal funds, said GDOE officials.

As a high-risk recipient of federal funds, GDOE had to pay for a third party fiduciary agent for the eighth year in a row. The financial monitor cost GDOE $2.25 million in the 2020 budget year which is a decrease of $250,000 compared with the cost in the prior contract.

Over the next month, GDOE anticipates completing the submission of the remaining items under consideration by the U.S. DOE

“So we have been making an effort to get off of these special conditions to get off of high-risk. We think another year of strong performance really sets us up to have a good discussion this summer,” Fernandez said.

GDOE is correcting two deficiencies identified in the audit report released Wednesday. According to the audit report:

• GDOE did not complete its annual physical inventory of property in the beginning of 2020. While the COVID-19 pandemic brought about limitations, GDOE could not provide documents to demonstrate resuming inventory for the rest of 2020 or obtain extensions from oversight authorities. 

• Fiscal 2020 federal fund expenditures totaling $1.6 million for five federal programs were not recorded despite GDOE having provided its schedule of expenditures of federal awards in January 2021.

“GDOE agreed with the findings and is in the process of implementing corrective actions to prevent repeat findings in next year’s audit,” GDOE stated in a release.

Auditors also issued a separate management letter identifying certain issues including:

• Cash: Approximately $5.2 million of checks were dated and/or released subsequent to fiscal year-end but recorded as reductions to cash as of Sept. 30, 2020.

• Travel: Procurement documents for $124,000 in travel tickets and $2,000 in hotel accommodations were not available to determine whether travel expenditures were competitively procured.

As of September 2020, the number of GDOE employees decreased by 71. Locally funded employees decreased by 46, federally funded employees decreased by 19, and employees funded by both local and federal funds decreased by six, according to the audit report.

GDOE revenues increased by $5.5 million, from $315 million in fiscal 2019 to $320.5 million in fiscal 2020. The increase was largely due to a $9.4 million increase in federal grants and contributions. 


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