State Comptroller's Office cites Parishville-Hopkinton School District for lost, non-inventoried Chromebooks

Mar. 18—PARISHVILLE — An audit by the state Comptroller's Office found that the Parishville-Hopkinton Central School District could not account for some of its Chromebooks because they were either lost or were never inventoried.

Auditors said one Chromebook with a cost of $263 could not be located and was not inventoried. Six additional Chromebooks with estimated total costs of $1,580 could not be located. Seventeen assets (16 Chromebooks and one 3D printer) with a total estimated cost of approximately $14,278 were not inventoried.

"In addition, annual inventories were not conducted and officials did not adopt comprehensive written procedures for IT (information technology) equipment inventory," auditors said in their report.

They reviewed the inventory list of 726 assets and found it did not always contain adequate information to sufficiently track and/or identify the assets. They said information that was recorded was not always accurate. Specifically, serial numbers were missing for 29 assets, 106 assets did not have an asset tag number recorded, and 461 assets did not show which specific location or individual they had been assigned to.

"The Computer Technician told us the IT (information technology) assets missing serial numbers and tag numbers were purchased prior to him working in his position for the District. He stated he has not taken the time to revisit older assets to ensure they are tagged and recorded properly, or that other information is properly recorded," auditors said.

They selected 53 assets to physically confirm they were in the district's possession and, although they found storage locations were adequate secured, they said the computer technician could not locate seven of the assets.

"All seven of the unlocatable assets were Chromebooks, including one with a cost of $263, and six that did not have a cost recorded. We estimated the cost for these six Chromebooks to be approximately $1,580 based on other Chromebook purchases made during our audit period. One of these Chromebooks was also not inventoried, and previously mentioned in the Inventory Records section of this report," auditors said.

"The Computer Technician told us one Chromebook had not been deployed and that he was unaware of its location. The Computer Technician was also unaware of the locations of the other six Chromebooks, which were all student-assigned devices. The District Clerk told us three of these Chromebooks were assigned to students who left the District (one who graduated in June 2020, and two that moved out during the 2020-21 school year) and that three are for current students at the District, however these devices have not been used since at least September 2021," they said.

They said a school board-adopted policy directed the superintendent or designee to establish procedures for tagging new IT assets as they were purchased, relocating assets, updating the inventory list, performing periodic physical inventories, and investigating any discrepancies to prevent unauthorized and/or malicious access to district assets.

"However, the Superintendent did not establish any such procedures or designate someone else to do so. As a result, the District does not have comprehensive written procedures specifically for establishing and maintaining IT equipment inventory," the auditors said. "Had these procedures been established, and physical inventories been performed, the 18 assets missing from inventory records should have been identified and updated in the inventory records."

Auditors had several recommendations, including that the superintendent or designee adopt specific comprehensive written procedures to appropriately track and inventory IT equipment. They also recommended procedures be established for maintaining detailed, up-to-date inventory records for all IT equipment; adding new equipment to the inventory; notifying the IT Department when equipment was reassigned, lost or stolen; documenting and updating the inventory for equipment disposal; and annually reviewing the physical inventory.

In addition, they recommended the computer technician be required to perform a physical inventory of all IT equipment, locate missing and unaccounted-for equipment, and update records accordingly; and monitor the process to retrieve student devices that are not returned at the end of the school year or when a student leaves the district.

Auditors also said the computer technician should "ensure District inventory records include the detail necessary to adequately track and locate an IT asset and that asset records minimally include the make, model and serial number; the name of the individual to whom the device is assigned, if applicable; the physical location of the asset; and relevant purchase or lease information including the initial cost, depreciation and acquisition date."

The computer technician should also update inventory records to track the assets not currently in district records, and perform a complete, annual physical inventory and compare the results to the inventory records, they said.

In his response to the audit, Superintendent Steven G. Coffin said the district made immediate adjustments regarding its IT assets in two areas.

"The District has reviewed, and is updating, the policies related to IT acquisition, maintenance, and disposal. Discussions and notifications have been sent to all stakeholders that handle IT assets on the proper procedures when disposing of outdated or damaged equipment that has been declared surplus by the Board of Education," Mr. Coffin said.

He also noted, "Procedures for inventory tracking have also been updated to ensure that IT assets are accounted for by the close of school, this includes both fixed assets and student issued devices. We do now have a retrieval process in place that provides the process for contacting students and parents when student IT assets are not returned to the District."

Mr. Coffin said the IT Department updated the active IT asset inventory to include both fixed assets and student assigned assets.

Parishville-Hopkinton was among 20 school districts selected for the audit, which found that many could not locate IT assets such as laptop computers, tablets and monitors; did not always keep records of those assets; and often failed to safeguard them from theft or damage. As a result, Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli said nearly $22 million worth of IT assets purchased or leased during the audit period were subject to potential theft, loss or misuse.

"The COVID-19 pandemic forced school districts to quickly adapt to a new environment, using technology to move to remote and hybrid learning," Mr. DiNapoli said in a statement. "This required spending significant money on IT assets. District officials need to ensure these devices are tracked and protected so taxpayers know their money isn't being squandered."