This story has been updated to include comments from Montgomery County Public Schools.
Montgomery County Public School’s auditing group first identified the problem with its Department of Transportation’s use of purchase cards. The school district then hired professional forensic auditors, according to a school spokesperson.
“It was because of that great work, and significant cooperation with our police partners, that MCPS has recovered in excess of $800,000,” Spokesperson Jessica Baxter said.
Since its investigation, the school district chose a new vendor for buses, revised its internal structures that monitor finance and procurement, provided retraining for staff who purchase cards, evaluated employees with access to purchase cards and decreased the limits for card purchasing, she said.
Montgomery County Public School’s Department of Transportation (DOT) abused its use of purchase cards, according to a 15-page report released Thursday by Montgomery County Inspector General Megan Davey Limarzi.
An earlier internal audit by the school district found “questionable purchases,” including gift cards, furniture, and other purchases that were shipped to an employee’s home.
The Office of Inspector General (OIG) reviewed $570,000 worth of transactions from July 2020 to June 2022 and ruled that $133,000 of these purchases by a former DOT assistant director were prohibited by MCPS policy.
The OIC and MCPS noted that $6,500 was spent on items that were considered not for use by MCPS.
According to the report, “The OIG also found that MCPS DOT management and staff regularly violated MCPS P-Card policies.”
According to MCPS, its purchase card program “streamlines the process of buying items that are not on a bid list and cost $500 or less. Each card has a separate account that goes to the school or location using the card.”
MyMCM reported previously that the two employees involved are Director of Transportation Todd Watkins and Assistant Director Charles Ewald. Both were placed on administrative leave on Nov. 15, 2021. One manager was terminated in February and the other manager resigned in March.
The report also noted that MCPS “took several steps to address program vulnerabilities since allegations of misconduct emerged.” However, according to the report, “Opportunities still exist for them to strengthen oversite programs.”
The report recommends that MCPS “continue to cooperate with law enforcement efforts to recoup stolen funds and equipment and prosecute violations of law.”
It also recommends that the school district develop and implement written policies that would require rotating audits of the purchase card program.
The OIG office pursued this investigation after consulting with the county police department.
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