DeKalb School board member says audit of COVID-19 relief money is worth the price

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DeKalb County School Board member Anna Hill. Photo by Dean Hesse.

By Dan Whisenhunt

The DeKalb County School Board, during its Nov. 14 meeting, approved a contract for an audit of how the district spent its COVID-19 relief money, but the cost left some observers scratching their heads.

The school board awarded an $877,000 contract to FORVIS, LLC for the audit. Joel Thibodeaux, Director of Internal Audits & Compliance at DeKalb County School District, told the district the report would be produced in late June.

During a Nov. 16 meeting of the school board’s audit committee, Board member Anna Hill, who works as a certified public accountant, said this won’t be a routine audit. During a traditional audit, teams test for weaknesses using transaction samples.

Thibodeaux confirmed this will be a “100% review of all expenditures,” meaning auditors will look at all COVID-19 relief spending by the district.

Hill said that’s precisely the kind of audit the district needs to keep track of the COVID-19 relief expenditures.

“This is not a financial statement audit,” Hill said. “We’re calling this an audit, but it really isn’t. Every transaction is going to get reviewed. I’m very happy with this. I know there was some sticker shock.”

Investigative reporting by WSB-TV revealed DeKalb Schools gave $90 million in bonuses using COVID-19 relief money to 10,000 district employees.

Board members have embraced the audit as a way to bring transparency and accountability to the district.

Hill expects the district will spend more to audit how it spends education special purpose local option sales tax (ESPLOST) money.

“I anticipate that’s going to be significantly more,” Hill said during the audit committee meeting. “I wanted to go ahead and put that out there. This work is very tedious, but it’s very important. As board members, we are trustees of public funds.”

Interim Superintendent Dr. Vasanne Tinsley said during the audit committee meeting she hopes to bring the board something soon about a contract for a firm to audit the district’s ESPLOST spending.

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