Saturday, March 2, 2024

Auditor-General makes six recommendations on back of schools audits

Auditor-General, John Ryan, has written to the Secretary for Education about the results of the 2022 school audits conducted by his Office.

Mr Ryan said the letter and accompanying report highlight key matters identified from the 2022 school audits and contains six recommendations for the Ministry of Education.

“Our report sets out the 40 non-standard opinions we issued since we last reported on schools and related organisations,” said the Auditor-General.

“This is a small percentage (1%) of all audit opinions that we issue to schools. Of the 40 non-standard opinions, 30 were because auditors could not get enough evidence about a school’s cyclical maintenance provision.”

He said schools need to plan and provide for future significant maintenance, such as painting school buildings.

Auditor-General John Ryan (file image).

“We have repeated our recommendation to the Ministry from previous years to ensure that schools comply with their property planning requirements by having up-to-date cyclical maintenance plans.”

Another recommendation is for the Ministry to communicate more effectively with schools.

“Auditors brought to our attention several instances where well-being support payments for first-time principals were used for reasons other than was intended. We found that some schools received guidance from the Ministry before it was finalised.”

“This draft guidance included examples that could be interpreted to mean the funds could be used on personal expenses rather than on well-being support clearly linked to their role as a principal.

“While this might have been an isolated matter, we often find that schools are not aware of, or do not fully understand, what is required of them. For example, many boards are not aware of the requirement to report on compliance with their employment policies in their annual reports, despite the Ministry providing guidance on this,” said Mr Ryan.

He said it was another challenging year for completion of school audits by his Office due to the ongoing impacts of auditor shortages.

“We have made good progress since the 31 May deadline, completing 82% of the 2022 audits by the end of October. We are supporting our auditors to ensure unfinished audits are completed as soon as possible and have re-allocated some audits for next year to better match resourcing.”

“We have recommended that the Ministry prioritise completing its proposed work programme on the future of school financial reporting. Reviewing the school financial reporting and auditing requirements has the potential to reduce the complexity and cost of school audits and improve timeliness.”

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