BY JOE MARVILLI
An audit by Comptroller Scott Stringer revealed that more than a thousand computers and tablets have been unused or lost at the Dept. of Education.
According to an audit of the DOE’s inventory control of nearly $200 million in computer purchases, more than 1,800 computers were unaccounted for or missing throughout the City. About 400 laptops and tablets were found unpacked and unused at 10 DOE locations, four of which are in Queens.
The audit revealed that at PS 152 in Woodside, four items are unaccounted for and 120 devices went unused. At JHS 217 in Jamaica, six computers are unaccounted for and two iPads are unlisted. Francis Lewis High School has 25 computers unaccounted for and five unused devices. Flushing’s PS 165 has two iPads not listed on the inventory, but all other devices in use.
“It is an insult to families who are desperate to access technology for their children to leave brand new computers and tablets unused in closets and storage facilities,” Stringer said. “If auditors can’t locate an average of 180 computers per DOE location, this may be just the tip of the iceberg. Taxpayer dollars, and our children’s education, are too important to take this technology for granted.”
Auditors looked at a sample of the computer and tablet inventory purchased between July 1, 2011 and June 30, 2013 for use at 10 DOE sites. They were purchased through two separate contracts with Apple and Lenovo and meant for nine schools and one administrative building.
While the DOE spent almost $27 million on tablets during fiscal years 2012 and 2013, it did not keep an inventory of these purchases. According to City records, 956 tablets were purchased for eight sampled schools during the audit period, but the sites only listed 703 devices. The rest are missing in action. A total of 394 devices were also found unused and unopened across the eight sites.
The Comptroller’s office made several recommendations to the DOE to rectify the problem. It suggested the creation of a centralized inventory system, a revision of DOE procedures that would include all hardware purchases in its Asset Management System and a search effort to find the missing hardware. If illegal activity is discovered, the DOE should contact the authorities and cooperate with any investigation.
The audit included a response from the DOE, stating its disagreement with the results of the investigation as well as many of the recommendations. It said the auditors relied on confirming the equipment based upon the location of the purchaser, rather than delivery location.
“With this flawed methodology, the audit team faced a number of hurdles that led to incomplete information being included in the report,” the DOE said. “The DOE does not agree that a single centralized inventory system is cost effective or practical.”
Stringer’s office said that it will follow up with the DOE to see if it follows the audit’s recommendations, though they are non-binding.
“DOE has failed in its duty to ensure that when taxpayer dollars are spent on computers and tablets, that technology makes it into the classroom,” Stringer said. “The City is wasting precious resources, creating a climate that invites theft, and ultimately undermining our responsibility to educate our children.”
Reach Joe Marvilli at (718) 357-7400, Ext. 125, firstname.lastname@example.org, or @JoeMarvilli.