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MDE Welcomes State Auditor’s Review of Contracts, Invoices

Revised to clarify reference to 21st Century funds. 

September 28, 2017

JACKSON, Miss – The Mississippi Department of Education (MDE) provided copies of contracts, deliverables, and invoices to an audit team of the Office of the State Auditor (OSA) on Sept. 27, marking the 5th time an OSA audit team has conducted an audit of MDE in the last 18 months.

The information requested Sept. 27 included contracts involving Dr. John Porter, MDE’s chief information officer, Blue Sky, Data One, Elton Stokes, Sharon Semper Stokes, Research In Action, Dr. J.P. Beaudoin, The Kyles Company, Questar Assessment Inc., and Caveon Data Forensics. Most of the information requested was the same information provided to OSA from June-October 2016.

In addition to the information OSA requested last year, the MDE provided additional information on Questar, which administers Mississippi’s statewide assessments, and Caveon Data Forensics, which provides investigative audits for state assessments.

The OSA also has been conducting a forensic audit of federal programs since April, following the MDE’s discovery in August 2016 that 21st Century federals funds had been mismanaged. The mismanagement created a $7.6 million deficit in Title I funds, which have been fully restored to districts.

“We welcome the Office of the State Auditor’s inquiry into contracts at the MDE. We will cooperate fully with any requests for information, just as we did over a year ago,” said Dr. Carey Wright, state superintendent of education.

In May 2016, the OSA notified MDE that it would be conducting a compliance audit for FY2015 beginning in June 2016. Staff of OSA, including an investigative auditor, interviewed MDE staff and requested documentation involving travel records, contracts and invoices. The specific requests included contracts for Stokes, Data One, Blue Sky, Porter, Research in Action, and The Kyles Company.

The MDE received and responded to numerous requests for information between June and October 2016 and provided all information requested by OSA. In October 2016, the MDE emailed OSA to provide additional information regarding contract deliverables as requested and stated at that time that all of the information OSA requested to complete the audit had been provided.

OSA followed with additional questions in November 2016, and the MDE responded to those questions. After months of no communication from OSA regarding this audit, the MDE received an update on the status of the audit via email in March 2017, in which the OSA staff member stated they “needed a little more follow-up work in some of the areas.”

The MDE paid the Auditor’s Office $26,000 for the compliance audit but never received a draft nor a final compliance report.

“I look forward to the completion of the OSA’s compliance report and additional inquiry. Until such time, the MDE will work on behalf of the students, teachers and schools to continue the improvements in public education that we’ve experienced over the last several years,” Wright said.

Media Contact: 
Patrice Guilfoyle, APR
Director of Communications

Jean Cook, APR
Communications Specialist